Survivor annuity


Q. When I retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 2010, I elected to purchase a survivor annuity for my spouse. Should I survive my spouse, will I be entitled to any of the funds that I paid for the annuity?

A. No, you won’t. However, your annuity would be prospectively increased to the full amount you would have received if you hadn’t elected a survivor benefit. That increase would be based on your original annuity, plus any COLAs that were added between the time you retired and the date on which your spouse 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. Hi Reg,

    Isn’t the increase in annuity subject to the retiree’s giving notice of the death of the spouse? If so, is the increase effective at the time of notice, or is it back-dated to the date of death?

    • Yes, a retiree must notify OPM of a spouse’s death, otherwise they would be unaware of that fact. When notified, the retiree’s annuity is prospectively increased from the date on which the death occurred.

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