Q: I am under the Federal Employees Retirement System and have worked for the Veterans Affairs Administration for 25 years. How long can I be gone from VA (in consecutive months) and then come back to still have all of my benefits in place?
A: While your spouse could be covered within 31 days of her loss of coverage under a non-federal health plan while you are still employed, that is not as clearly an option if you are retired. However, you could add her to your plan during any annual open season. There is no requirement that your spouse be covered under your FEHB enrollment for five years before you retire. To continue FEHB coverage, she only needs to be covered under it when you die. If you were to die while she was not covered, she wouldn’t be eligible to enroll at that time, even if she was receiving a survivor annuity.
— Reg Jones