Survivor benefit vs. full survivor benefit


Q. What is the difference between a survivor benefit and a full survivor benefit?

A. Unless blocked by a court order assigning all or a portion of a survivor benefit to a former spouse, by law a retiring employee is required to provide a full survivor annuity to his or her spouse, unless the spouse agrees to a lesser amount or none at all. A full CSRS survivor annuity would be 55 percent of the retiree’s basic annuity before any deductions are taken out. For FERS it would be 50 percent. For CSRS a lesser survivor annuity can be any dollar amount or percentage; for FERS the only lesser option is 25 percent.


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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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