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Survivor benefit plan offers financial stability.

In unsettled economic times, Citizen Airmen may be comforted knowing they have Reserve retired pay waiting for them and their dependents.

But unless Reservists elect to participate in the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan, retired pay stops upon their death.

The Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver sends RCSBP information and election packets to Guard and Reserve Airmen with 20-year notification letters by certified mail. By law, Airmen have 90 days from receipt of the packet to make their election and return the form to ARPC.

"If they don't, we make the decision for them," said Senior Master Sgt. Teri Baty, ARPC's personnel program management superintendent. "We select option A for Airmen without dependents and option C for Airmen with dependents. If that's not the selection for you, we must receive your election forms."

Sergeant Baty said she often sees situations in which Airmen fail to change their beneficiaries after a major life event such as marriage, remarriage, divorce, birth of a child or death of a beneficiary.

"After a major life event, they have one year to change their RCSBP election," Sergeant Baty said. "If they miss that window, their original election stands. We cannot change it."

These scenarios happen way too often, she said. In fact, in July alone, Sergeant Baty's office received six inquiries from survivors who thought they would receive some amount of the retired pay after an Airman died.

"It's tragic, but there's not much we can do for them," she said.

RCSBP provides three coverage options. Option A allows Airmen to not participate in the plan. If they live to draw retired pay, they are given another opportunity to enroll. Airmen can defer an election by selecting option A on Defense Department Form 2656-5, "Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan Election Certificate."

Option B is deferred annuity. This option provides coverage for an annuity to begin upon the member's original eligibility to draw retired pay--usually at age 60--if the Airman dies before the eligibility date.

Option C is an immediate annuity. It provides an annuity that begins immediately, regardless of the Airmen's age at the time of death. For example, if option C is elected at age 45 and the Airman dies at age 47, the beneficiary would receive the annuity effective the day after the Airman's death.

"It's a complicated decision," Sergeant Baty said. "Counselors are here to assist members in making the election that best suits their needs and circumstances. If they have any questions, they should call the contact center and ask to speak to an RCSBP expert."

More information is available at Airmen are encouraged to contact their local military personnel flight or the contact center at 800-525-0102 with questions. (Senior Master Sgt. Kelly Mazezka, ARPC public affairs)
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Title Annotation:Rounds the Reserved: A brief look at what's happening throughout Air Force Reserved Command
Author:Mazezka, Kelly
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Oct 1, 2009
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