Setting up a survivor annuity


Q: My 76-year-old mother got married last year to a 76-year-old man. After they got married, they were getting about $5,000 a month from his Civil Service Retirement System annuity and about $1,500 a month from her Social Security. Sadly, he had a massive heart attack two weeks ago and passed away. They had been married 11 months.

This gentleman had told my mother that he had named her as the beneficiary of his survivor annuity and that she would receive about $3,000 a month if he died first. Will my mother’s $1,500-per-month Social Security be affected by this annuity? Basically, will she receive $4,500 per month, or something less?

A: Your mother would only be eligible for a survivor annuity if her late husband elected to provide one for her and accepted two reductions in his annuity. The first reduction would be to pay for the benefit; the second would pay for a deposit that equals the difference between the new annuity and the annuity he received each month after he retired, plus 6 percent interest. Simply naming her as his beneficiary in a will wouldn’t entitle her to a survivor benefit. To find out if he took the right steps to provide her with one, call the U.S. Office of Personnel Management at 888-767-6738. After reporting his death, ask whether you mother is entitled to a survivor annuity.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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