Federal survivor benefits


Q. I am a retired FERS postal employee receiving a reduced annuity based on a 50 percent survivor benefit for my wife. She is an active postal employee set to retire at the end of the year. She is a FERS employee caught up in the FERRCA situation and designated as CSRS Interim/Offset. We have been told that if I die, she would not receive the 50 percent survivor annuity. Also, that if she elects the 50 percent survivor benefit for me and she should pass away, that I would not receive her annuity because we are both federal employees and this invokes the windfall provisions. We understand that the Social Security part of our retirement falls under this ruling, but about the FERS Postal retirement annuity?.

A. Either you misunderstood or you were misinformed. Regardless of which retirement system you and your wife are in, if you elect a full survivor annuity for each other, nothing can prevent your survivor from receiving it. If you were to die before your wife, she would receive 50 percent . If she were to die before you and she was receiving a CSRS annuity, you’d receive 55 percent. In either case, that annuity would be a percentage of the annuity you were entitled to before you made a survivor election, increased by any subsequent COLAs.

As for the windfall elimination provision, it applies only to anyone receiving an annuity from a retirement system where he or she didn’t pay Social Security taxes, such as CSRS. The windfall elimination provision reduces, but doesn’t eliminate, the Social Security benefit of such a retiree if he or she has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. While the WEP could apply to your wife if she stays in CSRS or CSRS Offset, it would never apply to you.


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.

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