Survivor annuity


Q. In November I will have five years of service and I bought back my Army time of three years, which gives me eight years of service. If I pass away, will my spouse be eligible for a monthly annuity check? I’m 58 and would have 10 years at 60, which should be my minimum retirement age.

A. When you have five years of actual FERS service, you’ll be vested in the retirement system. If you die after you are vested, your widow would be entitled to a survivor annuity. If you were to die before that, she wouldn’t. Then she’d only be entitled to receive a refund of your retirement contributions. Note: Active duty service for which you’ve made a deposit doesn’t count toward the five years needed to be vested in the retirement system; however, once you are vested, it would be used in the annuity computation.


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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. Loren OBanion on

    I retired from the US Coast Guard in 2010 with 30 years service and at that time we declined the military SBP.

    I have been working with the Federal Government under FERS since 2017 to present.

    If I buy back my military retirement time will my wife be eligible to receive my FERS retirement benefit if I die ?

    • If you were to die with at least 5 years of credible service, your widow would be entitled to a survivor benefit. If you make a deposit to get credit for your active duty service and waive your military retired pay, you could retire when you reach your minimum retirement age and your wife would be entitled to a much higher survivor benefit if you were to die before her. MRAs range between age 55 and 57, depending on your year of birth. FYI: You wouldn’t have to waive your military retired pay until you retire from your civilian job.

  2. Hello. My name is Hazel M Haggins. I need answers to see if being my ex-husbands has passed away. According to him, he stated he had not changed any of his paperwork as me still being his beneficiary on all his paperwork. If this is true, how do I get his pension and Social Security. What are the steps I have to make.

    • You need to call the U.S. Office of Personnel Management at 1-888767-6738 ans the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. In both cases you’ll need to provide them with your ex-husband’s full name, date of birth, Social Security number and, for OPM, his civil service annuitant (CSA) number.

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