Changes To Survivor Benefit Plan Leaves Some Veterans In Bind

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Photo by Adam Skoczylas

Harold Brown survived being shot down over Austria while serving as one of World War II’s famous Tuskegee airmen. He survived as a prisoner of war in the infamous Moosburg camp, and after the war, even lived through a mid-air crash. Many years later, he also survived his ex-wife, and because he did, he finds himself in another struggle, but this time it’s with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.


After his ex wife died of cancer in 2013, Brown tried to transfer his survivor benefit plan to his current wife, whom he married in 2010, but was denied even though he has paid tens of thousands in premiums for survivor benefits. In 2013, DFAS changed the way it interprets the law governing survivor benefit plans, and no longer allows the policyholder to transfer benefits to a new spouse, if a former spouse dies before the retiree.

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