Q. My father remarried when I was 15. I was his only child. When he was 51 and I was 24, he was diagnosed with cancer. While he was in the hospital undergoing colon surgery, I was informed that he was changing his beneficiary status to his new wife. I received a small portion compared to the half that was originally on the form. I received a pension check for half of his pension one time after his death, and then his widow started to receive the entire amount. Besides the hurt this caused me, she remarried within a year and gave up his pension. Is that it?
I am, of course, an adult child of this man, but I was his only child. I am not sure what was said or why he decided to change his beneficiary designations while facing terminal cancer, but he did. Am I not entitled to any of this pension that he gave 30 years of government service to? I have been single and struggling with mental and emotional issues for many years and certainly could have used my dad’s pension. What are my options, if any?
A. It’s important to understand that if you had continued to be listed on your father’s designation of beneficiary, you would have only been entitled to the proceeds of his Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (if any) and a refund of his retirement contributions. When your father died, the only other benefit for which you would have been eligible would have been a children’s survivor annuity, and then only if you were an unmarried dependent under age 18. With one exception, that modest benefit, worth only a few hundred dollars a month, would have ended when you reached age 18 (22 if you were a full-time student). The exception would be if you had been determined to be disabled and incapable of self-support before age 18 and weren’t married.
If your father was still an employee of the federal government when he remarried, he was required by law to provide a full survivor annuity for his new wife. If he remarried after he retired, he would have had the option of providing a survivor annuity for his new spouse.