First, please forgive my delay. I have a rather busy law practice that must take precedence over my participation with JustAnswer.com.
Now, moving on......
DFAS is the payroll agency for the Dept. of Defense. It it the source of active duty military pay as well as retired pay.
What is commonly called a "military pension" is, technically, called "military retired pay" (MRP). MRP does not happen automatically. The servicemember who qualifies for and is eligible to receive MRP must first APPLY to DFAS in order to commence receipt of MRP. CLICK HERE
to see the DFAS webpage outlining the Retirement Application Process.
Also, CLICK HERE
to see DD Form 2656, which is the critical form that must be submitted to DFAS by the retirement-eligible servicemember.
MRP commences from when the application process is complete. It is important for retirement-eligible servicemembers to ACT IN A TIMELY manner. Delayed application simply means a loss of MRP that would otherwise be payable. (At least that is my understanding of the process.)
Again, receipt of MRP is not automatic. It must be applied for. Also, MRP that would otherwise be payable had proper and timely application been made does not accrue as a debt owed by the government to the servicemember. If application for MRP is not timely and proper made, it is deemed by the government as being WAIVED (in essence, forfeited). There is no provision of retroactive payment of MRP that could and wold have been paid had timely and proper application been made.
The foregoing is my understanding of how the process works. But, as suggested earlier, CALL DFAS to get this information directly and officially.
Next, it needs to be understood that MRP ends when the retiree dies. There is no provision for any automatic continuation of MRP for the retiree's surviving spouse
However, the military does provide a life-insurance program known as the Survivor Benefit Plan
) that allows for payment of a survivor's annuity to a designated beneficiary (such as a surviving spouse) following the death of the retiree (and the end of MRP). HOWEVER, SBP coverage is an OPTIONAL component available to a retiring servicemember. It must be "elected" at the time of retiree. It does not happen automatically. There is a cost for such coverage, which is paid by a reduction in the amount of MRP that would otherwise be paid to the retiree.CLICK HERE
for the VA's webpage for information re dependents and survivors.
Now, as to your specific questions:
First, either you or your mother, or anybody else for that matter, can call DFAS and simply make inquiry as to their general procedures and policies, and what if anything can now be done in the circumstances you are described. DFAS will have no problem in answering your questions.
Second, based on the facts you are presenting, I suspect that your mother is not owed back Naval retirement pension pay. Navy "retirement pension pay" is only owed to the Navy servicemember who is eligible for such pay and has make proper and timely application to commence receipt of payments. It is not owed to the servicemember's spouse. The surviving spouse may be entitled to an surviving spouse annuity under the SBP, but only if SBP was elected as part of the retirement process.
Also, while a current monthly MRP ("pension") benefit is payable to military retiree during the retiree's lifetime (assuming timely and proper application was made by the servicemember), there is no current monthly pension benefit after the death of the retiree.
As for your having been told that your mother is entitled to a military pension benefit of a minimum of 45% of $4,500.00 a month as the surviving spouse for the rest of her life, I suggest you check back with the person who gave you that information and get the details as to source and authority to back-up the assertion. (My hunch is that what you were told pertains to a SBP surviving spouse monthly annuity benefit payment, which typically is 55% of the amount of MRP that the retiree was receiving at the time of the retiree's death. But if the retiree did not elect -- and pay for -- SBP coverage, it would not exist.)
Again, call DFAS and inquiry as to what, if anything, can now be done. And let me know what they tell you.