Entitlement to Survivor Benefit Plan Annuity

B-207592: Jun 23, 1982

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Shirley Jones
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The Navy requested a decision as to determining the legal widow of a deceased naval officer for purposes of entitlement to a Survivor Benefit Plan annuity. According to applicable legislation, the widow of the deceased is to receive the annuity; however, the deceased was married twice and both wives claim to be his legal widow. According to the record, his first wife received an interlocutory decree but never obtained a final decree of divorce. It appeared that, until the officer's death, all parties acted as though a final decree had been obtained. The deceased remarried, and he and his new wife apparently considered themselves married. GAO concluded that, because of the unusual facts in the case, it is not clear which claimant would be considered the widow under applicable state law. In the absence of a determination of the matter by a court of competent jurisdiction, no payment may be made to either party. Accordingly, no payment of the annuity to either claimant was allowed pending such a determination.