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Filling Out the DD-2656 Form

If you’re retiring from the military, it’s important that you fill out the DD-2656 form as part of your separation from the armed services at the end of your career. This form is the same for every branch, and it designates the payment of survivor benefits as well as sets up the payment of retirement pay for the service member, making it a vital part of the retirement process.

What Is the DD-2656 Form Used For?

This form is officially called €œData for Payment of Retired Personnel,€ and that is its purpose. This form is only used at the end of a military career when the candidate is eligible for either retirement pay or participation in the Survivor Benefits Plan. It provides the information necessary to initiate the retirement pay process, including information about where to send payments. It also includes a section for naming beneficiaries of the SBP in the event of the veteran retiree’s death. It serves no other functions and does not need to be completed under any circumstances other than retirement. If it is not completed, payment of retirement benefits will not be able to commence immediately upon retirement from the armed services.

Who Would Use the DD-2656 Form?

You should only fill out the DD-2656 form if you have been notified that you will be eligible for retirement pay upon separation from the military, and only if you will be eligible for retirement pay or the Survivor Benefits Plan. Otherwise, there is no purpose for the form, and it might even raise questions that will complicate your separation from the military.
Use this form if you are retiring from the:

  • Army
  • Air Force
  • Coast Guard
  • Navy
  • Marines

Service members with spouses or children qualified to be beneficiaries under the SBP are typically also eligible for retirement pay, so it is important for them to complete the entire form. Service members who are separating from the military without completing enough years of service to qualify for retirement pay do not need to use the form. Those retiring due to disability and have been qualified for disability retirement benefits do need to fill out this form. In any case, eligible service members should be notified by their branch’s headquarters approximately four months before retirement.

When Should You Use the DD-2656 Form?

Use the form any time you are retiring from a branch of the United States military and have been notified that you are eligible for retirement pay. There are no exceptions. Retirees entering civil service need to fill the form out on the same timeline as those opting to go into private retirement. You may fill the form out as early as six months before retirement pay begins if you are sure you are eligible for retirement pay, but you might not be notified about your eligibility until approximately four months before your separation date.

The DD-2656 form must be completed at least 30 days before retirement pay should start for you to receive your retirement benefits on time when they begin to be owed. Forms submitted past this 30-day deadline will result in delayed retirement benefits. For retirees whose plans depend on the timely payment of their benefits, this is a very serious deadline, and it affects both those retiring with their full years of service and those retiring early because of a disability. Service members who are not eligible for retirement or survivor benefits should not fill out this form, and there is no benefit to their doing so.

What Are the Consequences for Not Using the DD-2656?

On top of the delays in retirement payment, there are a number of other consequences of failure to file this form. Not only will retirement payment be delayed, it will not be started until the form is filed and processed. Additionally, the Survivor Benefits Plan enrollment will proceed automatically if the form is not filed or if the SBP section of the form is left blank. Failure to specify beneficiaries for your SBP after retirement will initiate a series of consequences, some of which are irrevocable:

  • All currently eligible dependents will be enrolled equally as beneficiaries if no beneficiaries are named.
  • Full coverage will automatically be selected for your spouse, if you have one.

You will lose the opportunity to indicate if you would like premiums taken from your retirement benefits or from another payment source. They will automatically be deducted from your benefits. It’s also important to note that this is the only enrollment opportunity for existing dependents, so if you do not name beneficiaries, the automatic arrangement for benefits payouts will be permanent. Late retirement pay and the loss of control over your survivor’s benefits are serious consequences, so make sure you fill out your DD-2656 on time.

Steps for Filling Out the DD-2656

  1. Download the Department of Defense Form 2656.
  2. Review the instructions included in the PDF for specific information about recent changes and requirements for sections.
  3. Thoroughly complete the form, including up-to-date information about the address you will receive benefits at.
  4. Include the information for any beneficiaries, including current and former spouses, children, and other qualified dependents.
  5. If you are allocating less than full benefits to your spouse, you will need your spouse’s signature to complete the form. 6. Once you have filled all the necessary fields, print the form and sign it before submission.

Quick Questions

This form is needed to establish your retirement account with the Department of Defense. It will not slow down your discharge from a branch if you fail to file, but it will keep you from receiving your benefits.

If you remarry or have more children after retirement, you can add them as beneficiaries. You will need to use form DD 2656-6 instead of DD 2656.

No. This form is only used to establish the initial retirement account. You will need to locate address change directions for your specific branch of the military and file the appropriate forms to move your payment address.


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