Q: My father has been a federal employee since 1975 under CSRS. He intends to retire at some point in 2012 and has already elected for my mother to receive survivor benefits. If he passes away before he formally retires, does my mother still receive the survivor benefits, and is the amount the same as the amount would be if he had first formally retired and then passed away? Or does his retirement need to vest before she can collect her full survivor benefits?
A: She would be entitled to a survivor annuity in either case. If he were to die before retiring, she’d receive 55 percent of the amount he would have been entitled to if he had retired on the day he died. If he died after retiring, it would be 55 percent of his unreduced annuity, increased by any cost-of-living adjustments made to annuities after he retired.