Survivor benefits


Q. I am a CSRS retiree (I retired in 1998) and am single.

1. If I get married and want my spouse to receive federal benefits after my death, by what percentage — or by what dollar amount — would my current pension decrease because of this change in marital status?

2. Would my spouse be covered by my choice immediately, or is there a waiting period?

3. My fiancee is getting Social Security disability but will turn 65 next year. Does that monthly amount change from what she receives now on disability to what her monthly Social Security would be because she has reached 65?

4. If I marry and should survive my spouse, do I receive all or part of whatever her monthly payment would be (per paragraph 3)?

A. You can elect a survivor annuity for your new spouse within two years of your marriage. If you do, there will be two reductions in your annuity: the standard one to pay for the survivor annuity, and a permanent actuarial reduction to pay the survivor benefit deposit. The deposit equals the difference between the new annuity rate and the annuity paid to you each month since retirement, plus 6 percent interest. The reduction is determined by dividing the amount of the deposit by an actuarial factor for your age on the date your annuity is reduced to pay for the survivor benefit. To find out what the cost would be, call the Office of Personnel Management at 888-767-6738 and talk to a benefits specialist. When you submit the paperwork, OPM will tell you what the cost would be. Then you can make a decision.

While your fiancee’s SSDI would be changed to a regular Social Security benefit when she reaches full Social Security retirement age, the amount she receives would stay the same.

Were you to marry and your spouse later died, any Social Security spousal benefit to which you’d be entitled would be affected by the government pension offset provision. The GPO would reduce that spousal benefit by $2 for every $3 you receive in your CSRS 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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