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If you are a surviving spouse of a fallen military member, the military wants to help. From the $100,000 Death Gratuity Payment to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) which allows the surviving spouse to receive up to 55 percent of a service member’s retirement pay, the military is prepared to help widowed spouses and dependents move forward.
Other programs for surviving spouses include Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) which provides surviving spouses up to $346 per month (this program ends on December 31, 2022).
Where it gets tricky, however, is when a surviving widow or widower wants to remarry. When that happens, eligibility for these benefits can shift and change or even disappear, leaving many to ask the question, “What benefits does a military widow lose if she remarries?” and “Is it worth it?”
The answers aren’t always what surviving spouses want to hear, but that could change.
With several state representatives and advocacy groups such as the Gold Star Wives of American working hard to amend and continually improve upon the benefits offered to surviving spouses, there is a chance that things could change, and change drastically. As of now, however, any drastic changes have failed to come to fruition. And as of now, any military widow or widower hoping to remarry may have to forfeit many of their benefits if they choose to remarry before turning a specified age.
Remarrying Before 60 Will Mean Losing Survivor Plan Benefits
The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) provides monthly payments to surviving military spouses as well as their children, if the military member died while on duty or after retirement, with payments as high as 55 percent of the deceased service member’s retired pay.
If the survivor of the deceased military spouse decides to remarry before the age of 60 (or 50, if they are disabled), however, they forfeit their eligibility for Survivor Benefit Plan benefits.
If the survivor of the deceased military spouse remarries after turning 60 (or 50, if they are disabled), they will continue to receive the SBP benefits.
Remarrying Before 55 Will Mean Losing Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) provides monthly payments to survivors of deceased veterans. It is a monthly, tax-free, benefit that pays more than $1,300 a month to eligible survivors.
To be eligible, you must be the surviving spouse of a service member who:
Effective January 5, 2021, Public Law 116-315 sought to help surviving spouses hoping to remarry by modifying the remarriage rules for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
Under the new law, if the Veteran’s surviving spouse is 55 years or older and was remarried on or after the effective date of January 5, 2021, they remain eligible for the benefits paid by the VA. Prior to this change, surviving spouses of lost Veterans who chose to remarry before their 57th birthday would lose all benefits.
Remarrying Before 55 Means Losing the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA)
Because Surviving spouses cannot receive both SBP and DIC payments at the same time (known as the SBP/DIC offset) surviving spouses may qualify for Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA), an annuity of $346 monthly payments, plus an adjustment for cost of living.
These benefits disappear, however, if the widow or widower remarries before the age of 55. Remarrying after turning 55, however, will not affect their eligibility.
Remarrying a Civilian Will Mean Losing Tricare
The surviving spouse and their family are eligible for Tricare with the same healthcare options and costs.
If the surviving spouse chooses to remarry, however, they will lose Tricare health care, unless they remarry another active or retired service member. Children of the deceased remain eligible until they age out.
Remarrying a Civilian Will Mean Losing Non-Monetary Benefits Like Commissary and MWR Privileges
Qualified survivors of fallen Veterans are eligible to retain the benefits provided by the military, even after their spouse has died.
If the surviving spouse decides to remarry, however, the rules and expectations of benefits provided by the military are pretty cut and dry: if you are seeking to remarry and your soon-to-be-spouse is non-military, you will lose all non-monetary benefits such as Tricare, commissary, exchange or Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) privileges.
For Survivors Hoping to Remarry, Social Security Benefits Are Still Available
After the age of 60 (or 50, if you are disabled), surviving spouses are still eligible to collect a survivor benefit. If they are not over the age of 60 but are caring for a child under the age of 16, they are also eligible to receive social security benefits.
Once a surviving spouse turns 62, they may also qualify for retirement benefits based on their ex-spouse’s work.
Advocates are Fighting to Allow Widows to Remarry and Retain Benefits without Age Restrictions
Attempting to find life after the death of a loved one is difficult, and although the military has worked hard to protect the surviving spouses and families, those who wish to remarry find it difficult to manage the financial shifts and changes. Whether or not it is worth it depends on one’s current financial situation as well as what they’ll be marrying into.
All of this could change, however, if the new bill, the Captain James C. Edger Gold Star Spouse Equity Act, is enacted. If it passes, all age limits would be removed, allowing surviving spouses to remarry at any age without fear of losing financial support.
“These arbitrary age limits are completely nonsensical and only punish those who forever mourn the loss of their spouse,” Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida believes. He, along with Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts support the change and hope to see a new bill that is more understanding and supportive of surviving spouses.
“When Americans sign up to serve in the military,” Moulton believes, “they should know the American people have their back. If they sacrifice their lives for our country, the least our country can do is take care of their families,” even after they’ve decided to remarry as it makes it possible for surviving spouses to move on and forward without the fear of losing their financial benefits and supports.