Survivor annuity


Q. Why is my mother only going to receive 55 percent of the survivor annuity amount? Why doesn’t she get the whole amount due?

A. Your mother will receive a survivor annuity that equals 55 percent of the amount her deceased husband would have received if he hadn’t elected a survivor annuity. As a result, the dollar amount of her survivor annuity will be greater than 55 percent of what he was receiving in his own annuity when he died.


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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


  1. The survivor annuity is 55% of what the retired employee received. That’s the maximum. Only the retired employee gets the full amount.

  2. The 55% of benefit after the survivor withhold comes about because it is about equal to 50% of the full benefit, which is the actual survivor benefit. The withhold is 10% of the full benefit. Doing a little algebra:
    50% of full benefit = X% of (90% of full benefit).
    Solve for X:
    X = 50%/90% = 55.555….%.

    • The survivor receives 55 percent of the full annuity, the unreduced amount to which the retiree would have been entitled but for his election of a survivor annuity.

  3. Marcella Coverson on

    Mr. Jones,
    I understand the first part of your response, but the second part is confusing. How will the dollar amount the surviving spouse receives be more than 55% of what the annuitant received if that is the maximum the survivor can get? Please advise. Thanks.

    • His annuity was reduced by approximately 10 percent to pay for the survivor annuity. Her survivor benefit wouldn’t be 55 percent of the amount he was receiving. Instead she’d be entitled to 55 percent of the amount he would have received if he hadn’t elected a survivor annuity.

      • So mathematically, this works out to the surviving spouse receiving not 55% of the spouse’s annuity value while he/she were still alive, but about 61% of that amount.

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