Certification Process Eases for Student Recipients of Survivor Benefit Plan

The certification process has gotten easier for students age 18 and older covered as a child annuitant under the military Survivor Benefit Plan. SBP students now have more time to file their certifications each semester and can file school certification forms online.

A quick SBP overview

The Department of Defense sponsors and subsidizes the SBP, which provides an ongoing monthly annuity (up to 55% of the service member’s retired pay) to military spouses and/or children when a military member dies while on active duty, on inactive duty or after retirement.

Coverage is automatic and at no cost for members on active duty and for reserve component members while performing inactive-duty training. Active-duty members can purchase coverage upon retirement. Reserve component members can elect full-time coverage, whether on duty or not, when they reach 20 years of qualifying service for reserve retired pay.

The department’s fiscal year 2020 budget made changes to the amount of the survivor benefit. The change, which takes place over three years, specifically affects those spouses and children of service members who died on active duty when the surviving spouse previously elected to transfer the SBP annuity to a child or children.

Student eligibility for the military SBP

The SBP’s child annuity payments typically end when recipients turn 18. But if you are a recipient attending school full time – in high school or at an accredited trade school, technical or vocational institute, college or university – you are eligible to continue receiving payments until the end of the school year during which you turn 22, as long as you remain unmarried. And while proof of full-time status is a requirement each term/semester for continuation of SBP benefits, recent improvements are making the process easier.

Easing the certification process

To continue annuity payments after turning 18, students must submit a school certification form, “DD 2788 - Child Annuitant’s School Certification,” each term/semester. This form must be received by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service no later than the last day of the school term to continue payments without interruption.

Remembering to file and get a school official’s certification each semester can be challenging, especially for students. But it is necessary to validate that an annuitant still remains a student to be eligible to receive this benefit. The Department of Defense is taking steps to make it easier to validate each student’s eligibility every semester with a new online option for uploading and submitting school certification forms. (See details below.)

In addition, DFAS can accept forms signed more than 45 days after the beginning date of the semester, lifting the previous requirement that forms be signed no more than 30 days prior to the end of the semester.

A helpful new checklist is also available. It provides tips and step-by-step instructions to assist students and school officials with completing the certification form. Download and print the checklist, or use it on a computer or tablet while filling out the form.

How to submit certification forms

Here are three no-cost ways you can submit your school certification form each term/semester. (Be sure to keep a copy for your records each time.)

  • Online: You now have a convenient online option. DFAS created a submission module, https://go.usa.gov/xymaH, where you can upload a school certification form through AskDFAS on the DFAS.mil website. This is accessible on mobile browsers. Simply fill in the required information in the online screen, and upload a PDF of your completed and signed DD Form 2788.
  • By mail:
    Defense Finance and Accounting Service
    U.S. Military Annuitant Pay
    8899 E. 56th Street
    Indianapolis, IN 46249-1300
  • By fax: 800-982-8459

If you would like to receive email reminders when it is time to submit your school certifications, follow the simple directions to create a profile in myPay.

Questions?

Look for additional information about military benefits on the DFAS website. You can also speak with a customer service representative at 216-522-5955 or 800-321-1080, or write to the address above.

Military OneSource and the Office of Financial Readiness have more resources and tips to help you and your family members prepare for your financial future. Follow FINRED on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and look for more on YouTube and the FINRED website and blog.