Q: I retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 2000 after being divorced in 1997. I gave my ex-wife 100 percent survivor benefits; she recently turned 55. I remarried in 2004 and sent the proper forms needed to add my current wife to my Federal Employees Health Benefits plan. I now have the American Postal Workers Union (472) plan, and I assumed that if I died, my present wife would be able to keep the plan. After talking with the Office of Personnel Management, I was told that I need to have my present wife named as survivor beneficiary for her to keep it, even though my ex-wife has 100 percent survivor benefits. They said that I had to do that within two years after our marriage. I was never advised of this and have never read anything on the matter. Can you please explain this to me?
A: Under 5 CFR 831.631, a retiree can elect a survivor annuity for a spouse acquired after retirement. That election must be made within two years after the marriage. Although your former spouse has entitlement to the full survivor annuity, if she were to die and you had elected a survivor annuity for your current spouse, your current spouse would be entitled to that survivor annuity. Because your annuity has already been reduced to pay for the original survivor annuity, your election of one for your current spouse wouldn’t cost you anything. Note: Even if you died after electing a survivor annuity for your current spouse, she would only be eligible to continue her FEHB coverage if she was actually receiving a survivor annuity.