Survivor benefits


Q. My father worked for the Postal Service for 42 years and retired in 2005. He passed away from cancer in March 2013. Before his death, he left instructions to contact federal retirement (CSRS) to file a claim to acquire his retirement benefits. He has four grown children, and there are no other beneficiaries. Retirement was contacted and we were mailed four applications for CSRS death benefits (SF 2800), to be filled out by each of us to apply and receive his remaining retirement contribution to be dispersed four ways. All four of us recently received a final statement of lump-sum death benefit payment of a little over $670 each. In looking through his papers, we found retirement documents that show a substantial amount of accumulated retirement for his 42 years of service. We tried to contact the Office of Personnel Management to see if this death benefit payment is the only monies being dispersed as death benefits, or is there another dispersal as to his accumulated retirement account with CSRS? We have tried to contact the retirement office again with no success via email and phone and concerned if the initial information we were given was correct as to all proper documentation being filled out as to this claim as to his retirement.

Does the federal retirement system keep his retirement after his death?

Are we entitled to receive his remaining retirement as explained to us? If so, are other forms needed aside from SF 2800 to claim his accumulated retirement annuity?

We looked at the CSRS webpage, and it was a bit confusing to obtain a clear understanding of what we’re actually dealing with. Please explain the correct policy on this retirement issue we have. Note: we all received CSF claim numbers with our statement letters.

A. By law, when he retired, your father received an annuity that consisted of a portion of his retirement contributions (which were tax-free) and the government’s share (which were taxable). In the absence of a spouse, his children were entitled to a return of any of his unexpended retirement contributions, in equal shares. Since the amount of his contributions that were returned to him were based on actuarial tables provided by the Internal Revenue Service, his age when he retired would have a significant effect on what remained. The older he was, the more he would have received in each monthly check, thus more rapidly depleting the tax-free portion of his annuity. The only question then is whether the $2,680 the four of you received represents all that was left in his account. Only OPM can answer that.


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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