After the veteran has died
After the veteran has died and a listed disabled beneficiary makes a claim the situation changes dramatically.
The claims process is not simple and straightforward (as it should be) but is instead complex, cumbersome and architected to in a way likely to deny benefits to disabled beneficiaries.
First, disabled beneficiaries must go through what amounts to a "disability recertification" process where they are required to prove (via medical and other documentation) that they are still disabled and the disability they have at the time of the veteran's death is the same disability they had when the policy started. Right of the bat things become complex.
The claims process is virtually impossible for disabled beneficiaries with cognitive issues to handle on their own. Right of the bat a disabled person is put in an impossible position and will have a heavy reliance on friends and family. If they have friends and family. If not they will never get the SBP benefit that some veteran paid many years for.
One of the things that makes the de-facto recertification outrageous is that there is no way to know that it's coming.
During the time that the veteran was alive there was no requirement for any periodic recertification nor is there even a mechanism to do one, yet upon the veteran's death,
the disabled beneficiary is faced with this requirement and may have to do it by themselves which is an impossible task if they have cognitive impairment.
While alive, veterans are told that as long as the original certification (of disability) has been approved and the veteran continues to make the payments, the policy will be in good standing and the listed beneficiary (or beneficiaries) will get the death benefit.
There is hence no reason to expect that a disabled beneficiary will be required to go through this (a de facto recertification) and hence no way for the family to prepare for it. The appropriate expectation is that the SBP application process will be simple and straightforward and that the benefit will start very fast. A similar expectation exists with social security retirement benefits. In both cases, a) the benefit is vital and b) the benefit has been paid for over many years.
Unfortunately, the SBP application process does not work like this and the de-facto recertification process is just the first hurdle that disabled beneficiaries face.
DFAS will deny the SBP claim if the disabled beneficiary is married regardless of the fact that their rules clearly state that marriage does not apply to disabled beneficiaries and is a disqualifier for dependent children only. Upon making a claim, a disabled beneficiary is told that marriage is a general disqualifier; DFAS cites internal "Financial Management Regulations" to prove this. Specifically Volume 7B, Chapter 44, Section 440202 G. That regulation indeed uses marriage as a general disqualifier but is a) directly contradictory to the information given to the public, b) an internal DFAS manual. The public obviously has no way of knowing that DoD 7000.14-R FMR, Volume 7b, Chapter 44, Section 440202 G even exists much less determines the eligibility for their disabled beneficiary - and not the rules on the DFAS website. This is a gross injustice.
Hence DFAS misrepresents the marriage exclusion rule. The information given to veterans is wrong and there would be a basic injustice in applying a marriage exclusion to disabled adults in the first place. Doing such a thing is unjust and discriminatory. We should not allow disabled persons to marry in this day and age? That just does not fly.
Other pages of this website go into considerable detail in explaining the basic unfairness and inappropriateness of applying a "marriage disqualification" to the disabled
Why no lawsuit. The answer is that due to the doctrine of "No Estoppel against a government" (Chapter 2) it is virtually impossible to sue DFAS for misrepresentation or fraud. Clearly DFAS knows this and clearly this knowledge influences their behavior. IE this allows them to misrepresent the rules of the SBP and get away with it. See a US Department of Justice discussion of Estoppel. Obviously, a disabled beneficiary and/or their family does not know that they have virtually no legal rights until well into this process.
The DFAS SBP program for the disabled is not very big. Compared with other government programs (such as Social Security) it is tiny. Clearly the small size of the program (the disability side) makes this abuse possible. This website was created to facilitate communication with others who have been affected or will be affected and to bring this injustice to an end!