Welcome to the
Grand Strand Chapter
of the Military Officers Association of America
Surviving Spouse Information November 2023:
Click link below to read some very Interesting information for surviving spouses:
Social Security 101: Understanding Spousal Benefits and Survivor Benefits
By: Lila Quintiliani
While Social Security is not a military benefit, MOAA’s finance and benefit counselors are asked about it often. A recent MOAA webinar on the topic gave an overview of the Social Security program and answered questions from members on many areas of interest – Premium and Life members can access the webinar at this link (login required), while others can register here to receive a link to the presentation.
One question that came up in the webinar (and frequently in talking with members) is the difference between spousal benefits and survivor benefits. The short version:
Spousal benefits are available to retired workers’ spouses or ex-spouses. They pay up to 50% of a worker’s monthly retirement or disability benefit.
Survivor benefits are paid to a surviving spouse or surviving ex-spouse when a Social Security beneficiary dies.
Here’s a bit more about each benefit. Need more financial guidance? Visit MOAA.org/Finance for articles, links to member-exclusive publications, and other resources.
[MOAA MEMBER BENEFIT: Save on Estate Planning With Everplans]
Eligibility: A spouse can qualify for spousal benefits once that spouse turns 62 or if they are caring for a child under 16 or a child receiving disability benefits. It’s important to note that a spouse can only qualify for benefits if the retired worker is receiving retirement or disability benefits.
Unmarried ex-spouses also qualify starting at age 62 if the marriage lasted 10 or more years. If the divorce occurred more than two years previously, the ex-spouse can collect spousal benefits even if the retired worker has not started receiving benefits. Spousal benefits paid to an ex-spouse do not impact the benefits a current spouse may be eligible for.
Calculation: A beneficiary is eligible for up to half of what their spouse would receive at full retirement age (also called the primary insurance amount, or PIA). But the amount received depends on when spousal benefits are claimed. If a spouse starts taking spousal benefits right at age 62, for example, their benefit is reduced to 32.5% of the retired worker’s PIA.
The amount received increases with each year a spouse delays claiming benefits. At their own full retirement age, the spouse can claim the maximum amount – 50% of the PIA. Since spousal benefits can’t exceed 50% of the other worker’s benefit amount, there is no point in delaying claiming spousal benefits beyond full retirement age.
The Social Security Administration has a helpful spousal benefit calculator on its website.
[RELATED: Know Your ‘Full Retirement Age’]
Dual Eligibility: If a spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits based on their own record, they need to be careful when filing for spousal benefits. That’s because when they file for one benefit, it is treated as an application for all benefits. The person receives whichever benefit is higher; you can’t activate one benefit while you delay another.
Eligibility: Survivor benefits are paid to spouses and eligible dependents of deceased workers who qualified for Social Security retirement benefits.
Calculation: The benefit amount is based on how much the deceased person was eligible to collect in benefits at full retirement age. Widow or widower benefits can be claimed any time after age 60, but if benefits are started before the survivor’s full retirement age, they will be reduced.
If the retired worker claimed Social Security benefits at full retirement age, their survivor is entitled to 100% of that benefit. If the deceased worker claimed benefits before full retirement age, they reduced their benefits and consequently their survivor’s benefits.
Maximizing Survivor Benefits: A worker can increase their own (and their survivor’s) benefit by delaying the start of the benefit. For each year past full retirement age they delay taking Social Security, their benefit increases by 8%. The benefit increase stops at age 70.
The Social Security website has a calculator that can help you plan a benefit claiming strategy. The site also has many articles and blog posts, and if you create a my Social Security account, you can receive a personalized retirement benefit estimate, get estimates for spouse benefits, check application status, and even request a replacement Social Security card.
While MOAA offers webinars and other tools to help answer general Social Security benefit questions, issues related to your personal benefit situation are best directed to the SSA or your local field office.
Surviving Spouse Corner: Is a 55-and-Older Community Right for You?
What is a 55-and-older community? These residential communities are designed to be friendly to seniors with low-maintenance amenities such as pools and clubhouses and close proximity to shopping, restaurants, and attractions. There are more than 19,000 retirement community businesses in the U.S. as of 2023, an increase of 1.2% from 2022, according to .
Pros of living in one of these communities include:
Because of the age requirements, many people living there are likely to be from your generation and share your interests. This will help making new friends easier.
Many of these communities have a clubhouse where you can find social events, games, movies, concerts, speakers, and more. These activities are usually open to the whole community, so you can participate in as many as you want.
You’ll probably need to pay an HOA fee for maintenance and repairs, but you won’t need to worry about managing the outside of your property. The fee could also include services such as trash collection, cable, water, and security.
Many of these communities have a pool, a gym, tennis courts, golf, a game room, and more.
Some communities offer shuttles to shopping centers or health appointments.
Besides holidays when grandchildren can come to visit, most of these communities are quiet.
Many of these communities are gated and have low crime rates. They also often have security staff, well-lit areas, updated fire alarms, smoke detectors, and other safety features.
Having lived in a gated 55-plus community since 2020, I find the only con is that I did not move here sooner. But for some, cons of these communities might include less privacy, higher costs, challenges selling, and younger family members potentially being restricted.
If you’re considering moving to a retirement community, before you buy, make a list of other questions and ask the homeowner association (HOA) for answers. Get a copy of the HOA rules (which are also called restrictive covenants) and fees, and make sure you understand them before you make your decision.
Surviving Spouse Information June 2023:
Here’s Why Your Survivor Benefit Check May Have Changed Unexpectedly
By: Paul Frost
JUNE 27, 2023
Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuitants may have experienced fluctuations in the amount of their monthly survivor benefit check. They have to do with changes in federal withholding regulations that weren’t implemented until April and didn’t appear until your May 1 annuitant deposit (although some annuitants experienced fluctuations earlier).
[RELATED: More Surviving Spouse Resources From MOAA]
Here’s an explanation from the pay centers that annuitants may have received via letter within the last few weeks:
What You Need to Know
“The annual tax table is typically updated at the end of each calendar year with changes in January. In the most recent update, the Internal Revenue Service also directed changes to withholding requirements. As a result, DFAS [Defense Finance and Accounting Service] modified the Annuity Pay System to correctly withhold federal income taxes. However, the additional time required to perform system modifications delayed implementation until your May 1, 2023, payment. This may have resulted in an unexpected change in your tax withholding. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
What You Need to Do
“No action is required from you at this time. However, you may wish to review your year-to-date withholdings to determine how the delay in updating your federal tax withholdings may impact you, given your individual tax circumstances. If you want to change your federal tax withholding, please log into your myPay account at https://mypay.dfas.mil or https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/ppc/ras/ and take the following actions:
1. Click ‘Federal Withholding’ under ‘Pay Changes’ on the menu on the left.
2. Click the yellow square with the pencil to edit your extra withholding.
3. Verify your marital status by selecting the appropriate option.
4. Identify the additional amount you would like withheld from each pay period.
5. Enter the identified amount in the ‘Extra Withholding’ box.
6. Click the ‘Continue’ button.
7. Review your changes, and then click ‘Submit.’
DFAS Customer Service can be reached at (800) 321-1080, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time. The Coast Guard Pay and Personnel Center can be reached at (866) 772-8724, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Eastern).
The 2023 IRS tax brackets can be found at this link.
[RELATED: More About the Survivor Benefit Plan]
Reviewing your federal withholding throughout the year is important to avoid incurring a large tax burden in April. The pay centers only know the income they’re sending you. If you have other significant income, consider using the IRS Withholding Estimator to calculate your annual federal taxes.
Surviving Spouse Information May 2023:
The Surviving Spouse Advisory Council strongly encourages all surviving spouses to participate at both the National and Chapter level.
Chapter Membership offers surviving spouses an opportunity to engage at the MOAA grassroots level and experience camaraderie with other military members. While some are content to attend chapter functions and socialize, other surviving spouses choose to continue serving through their chapters and engage in roles such as Surviving Spouse Liaisons, Project Leader, or one of the Chapter Officers.
Quite a few of our Councils and Chapters are successfully led by surviving spouses! We often hear from surviving spouses that participating in the local chapter was one of the best things they did during their survivor transition.
To locate a chapter near you, contact the MOAA Member Service Center at 1-800-234-6622 or use the MOAA Chapter Locator.
Surviving Spouse Liaison
Surviving Spouse Liaisons work at the Council and Chapter level to ensure fellow survivors remain connected to the military family and participate in local and national programs and advocacy efforts. Learn more about the position at this link, and learn more about the Surviving Spouse Liaison Excellence Award, including the nomination process, at this link.
Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter
The MOAA Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter was founded in 2018. Interested in applying? Download membership materials here. You can also join MOAA's Surviving Spouses Facebook group.ONLY SURVIVING SPOUSE PUBLICATIONS
Military Officers Association of America
201 N Washington St
Alexandria, VA 22314
IMPACT OF THE PACT ACT ON SURVIVING SPOUSES:
If you’re the surviving spouse or child survivor of a Veteran who died from a toxic exposure-related condition, you may qualify for VA benefits—including monthly benefits through the VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Program.
Thanks to historic new legislation called the PACT Act, VA has expanded the list of health conditions that VA assumes are service-related. This means that the survivors of Veterans who died from these conditions can now qualify for benefits. These newly-covered conditions include all reproductive cancers, all respiratory cancers, all head cancers, and many other illnesses.
Here’s what this new law could mean for survivors like you:
VA encourages all survivors who believe they may be eligible for VA DIC to apply now, or visit VA.gov/PACT to learn more about what this new legislation could mean for you. You can also review eligibility to determine whether you qualify as a surviving spouse or dependent of a Veteran.
When you’re ready to file a claim for VA DIC, you can do so online, by mail, or with help from an accredited representative, such as a Veterans Service Officer (VSO). The application you’ll need depends on your relationship to the deceased Veteran. If you’re the surviving spouse or child of a Veteran, you’ll use VA Form 21P-534EZ. The evidence table and checklist found in the instructions of the 534EZ can help you submit a more complete application package and may allow for a quicker decision. If you’re a surviving parent, you’ll fill out VA Form 21P-535.
Learn more about VA DIC and accrued benefits by visiting www.va.gov/disability/dependency-indemnity-compensation/.
Surviving Spouse Corner: Resources for Surviving Spouses - April 2023:
By: Barbara Smith
As a surviving spouse and a member of MOAA, you have access to a host of people who are there to guide you through any difficulties or questions you might have. MOAA exists to protect military benefits and to offer you resources which cannot be found elsewhere.
MOAA membership is 350,000 strong, of which 16% are surviving spouses. Experts in the Washington, D.C., area advocate for legislation benefiting our community; they are equally vigilant when fighting legislation that would harm our benefits.
You are encouraged to visit MOAA.org, where you can sign up to receive The MOAA Newsletter and choose areas of most interest to you, such health care and earned benefits, finance, and spouse and family.
On the homepage when you see the prompt “I AM A,” scroll down and click on "Surviving Spouse," which will lead you to the Surviving Spouse Page. This site provides information relevant to our community.
MOAA has a Surviving Spouse Advisory Council (SSAC) consisting of eight surviving spouses advocating for issues and concerns of interest to our community. Email SSACouncil@moaa.org with any questions or concerns you may have.
MOAA’s Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter meets once a month and is open to all MOAA surviving spouses and surviving spouse liaisons. Speakers cover important information regarding issues and concerns one month and the next is an open forum meeting taking questions and hearing concerns of attendees. Learn more about the chapter, including how to join.
Additionally, MOAA’s Surviving Spouses and Friends Facebook group provides information, answers questions, and offers an opportunity to interact with others traveling the same course. Although not sponsored by MOAA, another Facebook group, DIC Surviving Spouses & Friends, is open to all surviving spouses who receive or who have questions regarding Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
[RELATED AT MOAA.ORG: Dependency and Indemnity Compensation]
Check out your local MOAA chapter where you can meet new people and other surviving spouses. Some of our events have speakers on a variety of subjects that might interest or concern you, with some other events providing entertainment. Most chapters have a surviving spouse liaison who is there to assist you with any issues or concerns you might have or just to provide some comfort or a sounding board.
Surviving Spouse Corner: Survivor Benefit Plan Update - January 2023:
By: Nancy Mullen
JANUARY 30, 2023
Photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery
The FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act terminated the so-called “widows tax,” allowing eligible military surviving spouses to collect the full Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) in full, with no offset (no reduction) after a three-year phase-in period. We are now entering the third and final phase. What happens now?
Survivor benefits. DIC, SBP, and the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) were increased by the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 8.7% with the January 2023 payments. Beginning Feb. 1, 2023, eligible surviving spouses will receive their full SBP payment from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) and their full DIC payment from the VA without offset. The SSIA payment will stop, as this payment essentially becomes part of the full SBP payment. If you recall, the SSIA was a temporary solution to the offset, which is no longer necessary due to the aforementioned legislation. Although the SSIA goes away, the total these surviving spouses receive in their name will not be less than what was received the month prior for these specific benefits. There is no change to DIC other than the COLA increase.
[UPDATED MONTHLY: MOAA's Surviving Spouse Corner]
Child Option Annuitants. Beginning Feb. 1, 2023, the annuity will transfer to the servicemember’s surviving spouse provided they are an eligible spouse and have completed the appropriate paperwork for the transfer. If the surviving children are currently receiving the annuity, they have been receiving the full SBP, plus COLA increases, so what they receive in January 2023 will be the amount the eligible surviving spouse will receive. If the surviving children have already aged out of the program, the SBP will be recalculated to incorporate all prior years’ COLAs. You will be able to sign up for MyPay once the annuity transfers to you. Please note that recent changes in the SBP law do not impact the retiree child option SBP election, only that for the post-9/11 active duty child option election that was primarily made due to the SBP-DIC offset rules.
Eligible surviving spouses should have received a letter from DFAS in late 2022 detailing the background of the change, an example calculation, and a personalized SBP estimate. (Please note these were estimates only.) Find additional details about these updates from DFAS and MOAA. Be sure to follow the MOAA Surviving Spouses and Friends Facebook page as well.