Survivor Link ~ December 2023

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December 2023

Survivor Link: Issue 11

     The Survivor Link is the Army Survivor Outreach Services Newsletter. This newsletter is published on a quarterly basis to provide information about benefits changes, program updates, opportunities to connect with other survivors and to stay linked to the Army.

      Army Survivors can subscribe to The Survivor Link at any time. To subscribe just follow the link in this newsletter. You can choose to have the Survivor Link delivered to your email address or as a text message to your cell phone.

      When you subscribe you will be asked a few questions. Please complete your first name, the component of your Soldier (Regular Active Army, US Army National Guard or US Army Reserve), your relationship to the Soldier (spouse, child, parent, staff or other), and your State of residence.

Survivor Link Message -September 2023

SOS Staff Locator

Did you know that the Army has more than 150 Survivor Outreach Service Coordinators ready to assist Surviving Families who are having problems with benefits such as the Survivor Benefit Plan, TRICARE, or education benefits? 


Click on the map to use the SOS Coordinator Locator and find the coordinator nearest to your home. 

Army  Family Action Plan Crest Logo

Army Family Action Plan

Did you know that Surviving Families can use the Army Family Action (AFAP) to voice quality-of-life issues and share feedback, ideas and suggestions with Army leaders? AFAP is a powerful tool that enables Soldiers, Army Civilian, Retired Soldiers, Survivors, and Family Members to communicate issues to the Army’s leadership.

Issues can be submitted through your local Army Community Services Office, Survivor Outreach Services Coordinator, or online through the Issue Management System:

Online Issue Submission

DPRR Banner

This spring the Secretary of the Army made a decision to chart a new path forward to address harmful behaviors in the Army. As part of this transformation, the Soldier and Family Readiness Directorate and the Army Resilience Directorate were merged and renamed the Directorate of Prevention, Resilience and Readiness (DPRR) under the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9. We invite you to view the DPRR website for information about SOS and other programs such as Army Community Services, Child and Youth Services, Employee Assistance Program, and Suicide Prevention. You can find the SOS portion of the webpage at:

Survivor Benefit Plan Logo

Are you a surviving spouse or child of a Soldier who died in the line of duty?

By Patty Cruz, Army Survivor Benefit Plan Program Manager

If you are a survivor of a Retired Soldier, this information does NOT apply to you.

Starting February 1, 2023, you may have noticed some changes to your Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity. The National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2020 repealed the SBP Optional Annuity for Dependent Children. Part of the repeal reverts the SBP annuity to confirmed eligible surviving spouses of Soldiers who died in the line of duty.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has not heard from all the surviving spouses yet and we need your help to verify the eligible beneficiary.

If you are a surviving spouse of a Soldier who died in the line of duty who requested to transfer the SBP annuity to children and have not submitted your eligibility packet to DFAS, please do so as soon as possible. We need a packet from EVERY surviving spouse whether you are eligible or not.

If you know a surviving spouse that fits the description above. Please help them connected to someone who can assist.

You can find the eligibility packet and more information on the DFAS focus page at

To locate the nearest Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) Coordinator for assistance, got to or an Army Retirement Services Officer, go to

Honoring Those Who Served

The Military In Lasting Tribute online memorial honors service members who died while on active duty from 1985 onward. This Memorial Day, share the memorial to honor their sacrifice and make sure they are never forgotten.


Visit the Memorial

Simplifying Eligibility Verifications for SBP Annuitants

By DFAS Cleveland

Beginning August 2023, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) reduced the eligibility verification requirements for Survivor Benefit Plan annuitants to one annual verification. Previously, some SBP annuitants needed to complete multiple forms each year. Now, SBP annuitants will only need to complete and submit one annual verification each year.

In addition, there are two new annual eligibility verification documents with names that identify their purpose. And their due dates are easy to remember: they are due the first day of the month of the annuitant’s birthday.

Click here for details

Holiday Traditions

As we usher in the month of December, we also begin a season of holidays around the globe. Whether this is the first holiday season without your spouse, parent, child or sibling or it is one in a long line of missing your Soldier, holiday traditions are never quite the same after we have lost a person we loved.

You may feel that you need to keep everything exactly as the last holiday that your whole family was together to celebrate. You may find it easier to completely change how you celebrate holidays and milestones in your life. Or maybe this year, you do not feel like celebrating at all. All of these are natural reactions to grief and loss. There is no "right" way to experience your loss and there is no right answer for how you move forward. 

As the holiday season is upon us, it is the wish of the Survivor Outreach Services Team, for you to find some measure of comfort in your memories and joy in the season. 

Our team asked a few surviving families to share how they celebrate this season. We hope may you will find some inspiration and joy in how others are creating a new vision for the holidays.

  • My husband died on November 3rd—right before some of the biggest holidays our family celebrates: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. That first year we were all pretty numb and still in shock. As that shock wore off, I felt a pressure to carry on every tradition we had ever had before my husband died. But I quickly learned that wasn’t practical.  I had to let go of the aspects of “tradition” that caused stress and undo pressure, and embrace the aspects that feel more natural and come organically. A forced tradition is nothing to be celebrated. Instead, we try live a “Hybrid Holiday” life—hanging on to some of the things we have always enjoyed, while letting ourselves be open to new ideas without feeling any guilt about letting some things go and change naturally over the course of time. Jennie T. Surviving Spouse
  • Our holiday traditions were always about food, family, movies, and sharing special gifts. After my son's death, the holidays were different.  His presence was greatly missed during our celebrations and I didn't feel like baking the usual holiday treats. One day I picked up a cookbook my son had given me on a previous holiday. He had written on the inside cover of the book, "Mom, I thought you could use this book to feed the world."  His words inspired me to start a new holiday tradition. I now bake several batches of my son's favorite cookies and package them in colorful containers. I share the homemade treats with his friends and other families who need an extra measure of love during the cold winter season. Karen M. Surviving Mother
  • In the beginning, decorating and preparing for the holidays seemed to be the hardest part. I was reminded of how my husband brought family and friends together in our home for Thanksgiving and how special this was. So we began, again, to bring family and friends together for a day of gratitude. Gratitude for the holidays we were blessed to have with him, those we would share with others and the peace we would find in each other. Krista A. Surviving Spouse
  • After my son passed on December 1, 2017, we endured our first Christmas without him.  When we were getting the decorations out for Christmas I found his old stocking and wasn't ready to accept his passing. Since then we hang his childhood stocking with all the rest over the fire place. Dana J. Surviving Father

Survivor Outreach Services Plays a Vital Role in Supporting Survivors

Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) is the official Army program that provides long-term support to surviving Families of fallen Soldiers. This program was designed and developed by survivors.

Jill Knaus, program manager for the Army G-9 Survivor Outreach Services program, explains that the program came about because of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2006. “Of course, the focus was the losses that were occurring across all of the services that were happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Army decided that SOS was going to be an open-arms kind of program.’’

She continues, “It doesn’t matter if the Soldier was lost in Iraq or Afghanistan or how or when the Soldier dies. Any Soldier that we lose, their Family is supported throughout the entire process. We even have some Families that we work with who lost their Soldiers going as far back as the Vietnam era."


PACT Act Resources

The PACT Act is a historic new law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. The law empowers VA to provide generations of Veterans—and their survivors—with the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.



Dine and Dial

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

7:00 PM Central Time

Financial Education for Military Survivors

Hosted by Fort Leonardwood SOS

The call number is:

 (1-605-475-5910; Access Code 7681905#)

Ringing Telephone