29 January 2004


The Honorable Mary Landrieu
United States Senate
724 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D. C. 20510

Dear Senator Landrieu:

The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), greatly appreciates sponsorship of the Military Survivor Benefits Improvement Act of 2003 (S. 1916), which would eliminate over a ten year period the drastic reduction in Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities that now adversely impacts survivors who are age 62 and older.

The current program provides 55 percent of SBP-covered retired pay for younger spouses - however the amount plummets to 35 percent of retired pay for survivors age 62 and older. Many retirees and their spouses were not fully aware of this reduction when they enrolled in the program in the early 1970's. As a result, a large number believe they were betrayed by having been asked to sign an irrevocable contract to pay lifetime SBP premiums.

FRA B the oldest and largest organization dedicated to enhancing pay and benefits for members of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard B was instrumental in the enactment of the military SBP program in 1972 designed to improve the Retired Servicemembers Family Protection Plan. Participants were originally responsible for paying 60 percent of the costs, while the government was to subsidize the remaining 40 percent. But today= s SBP program reads nothing like its FRA predecessor, and its intended value has been greatly diminished by the social security offset as well as decreased contributions from the federal government.

Today, military retirees pay for more than 80 percent of SBP costs, while the government picks up 19 percent. By way of comparison, the federal government subsidizes its civilian SBP plans B Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) B at 33 percent and 48 percent, respectively.

The greatest disparity between the two plans is beneficiaries in the federal SBP program do not experience the same offset incurred by military SBP beneficiaries when they reach the age of 62. It is unconscionable that the survivors of the men and women of our armed forces, who have given up so much in service to and protection of our country, continue to sacrifice at a time when they are in their greatest need.

The Association very much appreciates your leadership in campaigning to restore equity and credibility to this very important survivor program. The Association looks forward to working closely with you in seeking maximum co-sponsorship for, and timely enactment of, S. 1916.

National Executive Secretary