Survivor benefit


Q. I’ve been married for 17 years. How would I know if I was a beneficiary for my husband’s civil service pension? I know I’m covered with his medical insurance.

A. With two exceptions, federal law requires that you receive a survivor annuity if your husband dies. One exception would be if he was previously married and hadn’t changed the designation of beneficiary form to name you as the recipient of the survivor annuity. The second, if there is a properly filed court order assigning that benefit to a former spouse.


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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. Elaine Lumsden on

    The designation of beneficiary form only applies to lump sum payments, not to the survivor benefit. As you have stated , if their is a court order for the former spouse, it would take precedence over the current spouse.

  2. On the survivor annuity, if I selected it and my husband didn’t sign saying he knows of it and the payments don’t get deducted from my disability retirement annuity, what happens at 62 when I move from disability or if I die?

  3. When your husband retires, the retirement application has a section for survivor annuities. It states that he is required to leave you a full survivor annuity (50% for FERS), unless you agree in writing to less (25%) or none at all. There is a form attached for that, and it must be signed and notarized. So unless you went to a notary with him and signed off allowing him to not leave you a survivor annuity, you should get the full one.

    • I understand that and I am Fers Disability retired; did not go to a notary and am sure I checked the forms for a survivor annuity but no deduction has been taken from my disability annuity which began in 2011; I’ll be 62 in September this year. How will a survivor annuity for my husband happen or will it not happen at all?

      • Once your disability annuity converts to a regular FERS retirement annuity, you should receive a “blue book” from OPM showing a breakdown of the annuity. This should show the 10% reduction for a survivor annuity. If it does not, you need to contact OPM as soon as possible, stating you requested a survivor annuity and don’t see the reduction for it. Your husband won’t receive anything until you are deceased.

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