Survivor benefits


Q: My father retired from the U.S. Postal Service with an annuity in the late 1980s. He passed in August of this year and the OPM retirement person says there are no survivor benefits except to a spouse or disabled child. My father was divorced and never remarried. I am his only child and not disabled. She explained that the annuity was paid out to my father during his life and would be prorated from the beginning of the month he received a check to the date of his death, a monthly health insurance deducted and no other funds are available. I have submitted all the required forms. Is this true? This seems to contradict the explanations on their website.

A: Because your father retired after July 1, 1986, he received a combination of his own retirement contributions and those of the government in his monthly annuity payments. The portion that represented his own contributions was tax free because he had already paid taxes on them. If your father had no one who was eligible for a survivor annuity when he died, his unexpended retirement contributions would be paid in a lump sum according to the standard order of precedence. In this case, it would mean that the money would go to his child or children in equal amounts. On the other hand, if there is a court order on file that granted a survivor annuity to his former spouse, those contributions would constitute a tax free part of her own survivor annuity.


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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

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