Survivor benefits


Q. My uncle passed away, leaving my aunt who just turned 98 in need of full-time care. I have been paying her bills and her caregiver. I mistakenly thought the income he received was Social Security, but found out that it was his federal pension. He received this payment of approximately $1,400 per month direct deposited into their account until May following his death. They took back the March-May payments, then stopped any further payments.

It has recently been brought to my attention that my aunt should have retained a portion or all of his pension as his widow. Her only income is $575 per month Social Security. I am wondering if she was not accurately listed as his spouse or if we missed some paperwork following his death.

My aunt lives in Oregon, and I am in Tennessee. Her caregiver is awesome, but she does not always send us everything.

We finally completed the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance paperwork and are waiting for a small death benefit but need to determine if she was supposed to be getting his pension. She is nearing the end of her resources, and we are trying to be sure we have done all we can.

A. Call the Office of Personnel Management’s Retirement Information Office at 888-767-6738 and talk to one of their benefits specialists. Be sure to give them your uncle’s full name, date of birth, Social Security number, and civil service annuitant number). You can reach RIO on standard business days from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time.


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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