Q. How are the base retirement survivor annuity amounts determined? They seem to range from $3,600 upward.
A. It depends on the employee’s retirement system. A retiree under either system must elect a full survivor benefit, unless the spouse agrees to a lesser amount or none at all. A full CSRS annuity would be 55 percent of the the retiree’s unreduced annuity; under FERS, 50 percent. If the spouse of a CSRS retiree agrees to a lesser amount, it can range from $1 a year up; under FERS, the only lesser amount would be 25 percent.
When you cite the $3,600 figure, you may be referring to how a retiree’s annuity is reduced to pay for the survivor annuity. Under CSRS, the reduction is 2.5 percent of the first $3,600 used as a base for the surviovor annuity and 10 percent of any amount over $3,600 used as a base. Under FERS, the reductiion is a straight 10 percent of the amount used as a base.