CSRS, Social Security and survivor benefits


Q: My husband and I are both Civil Service Retirement System Offset employees who will elect a survivor annuity. Can you explain how a CSRS Offset employee’s survivor annuity offset amount is calculated? A specific example would be helpful of how the offset amount is applied to a survivor annuity.

When my husband begins getting Social Security, his annuity is estimated to be offset by about $800, mine by about $200. If I receive a survivor annuity upon his death, will my survivor annuity amount be reduced dollar for dollar by the full $800, or will my husband’s full annuity amount be reduced by the $800 offset and then have the survivor annuity calculation (55 percent of the reduced offset annuity) applied to arrive at the spousal annuity amount? Or is there another way of calculating? My Social Security benefit will not be as large as my husband’s, so I will qualify for his Social Security benefit upon his death.

A: A surviving spouse who isn’t eligible for a Social Security survivor benefit is paid the full CSRS survivor annuity. A surviving spouse who is entitled to a Social Security survivor benefit will have that annuity reduced by the amount of Social Security survivor benefit that is attributable to the period the deceased annuitant was employed under CSRS Offset. That offset normally occurs at age 60. If you are entitled to a Social Security survivor benefit and a Social Security benefit based on your own record, you will receive the larger of the two benefit amounts, but not both.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.


  1. Hello. I am a Civil Service Offset retiree. I have not applied for Social Security even though already of Minimum Retirement Age for Social Security. I have over 31 years of substantial Social Security earning years. My wife has just become of Minimum Retirement Age for Social Security.
    I am concerned that if I apply for Social Security, my wife would not get the full survivor benefit for all my combined Civil Service and CS Offset/Social Security earnings years, but instead, would only get survivor benefits for my Civil Service years before becoming CS Offset. Also, I am concerned that my wife’s Social Security annuity, if she applied based on only her own history of SS earnings so not based on my SS earnings, would be impacted upon my passing upon her receiving CS survivor benefits, REGARDLESS if I apply or not for a Social Security annuity to supplement/coordinate jointly with the CS annuity per CS Offset formulas/rules. FYI, my CS years are 16. The CS Offset years (with SS withheld) are 18. Pls advise on my concerns. Thank you.

  2. Kelly McDonald on

    If I understand correctly, you cannot change CSRS Annuity Survivor benefits after you retire. Is that correct? My husband retired 5 years ago and we selected full survivor benefits (55%) for me. However, I am now getting ready to retire and we are considering less annuity survivor benefits for him (he is 9 years older and we no longer have outstanding debt).

    • While your retired husband cannot change the amount of survivor benefit he chose for you, with his consent, you can elect a smaller retirement benefit for him when you retire.

Leave A Reply