[Question Concerning Entitlement to Survivor Benefit Plan Annuity]

B-217739: Dec 19, 1985

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An advance decision was requested as to whether: (1) the current or the former spouse of a deceased Air Force officer was entitled to his Survivor Benefit Plan annuity; and (2) delinquent premiums which were not deducted from the officer's retired pay may be collected from the former spouse's annuity. In 1981, 1 year after the officer's remarriage, his new wife became eligible as the beneficiary under the officer's Survivor Benefit Plan. However, after 1983 changes in the law covering the Survivor Benefit Plan, the officer elected to cover his former spouse to the exclusion of his current spouse. Subsequently, the current spouse asked for the election to be withdrawn on the basis of his mental incompetency. GAO found: (1) insufficient basis to question the officer's 1983 execution of the election; (2) that when the officer attempted to withdraw the election in 1984, he was no longer mentally competent; (3) since survivor benefit coverage for his former spouse was ordered by a court at the time of his divorce and never modified, a revocation of the election would have no effect; and (4) that a debt which accrued because of a delay in notifying the Air Force of the officer's remarriage should be collected from the annuitant's benefits before payment. Accordingly, GAO held that the former spouse was the proper beneficiary of the annuity, and the amount of backpayments due should be collected from the annuity.

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