Full vs. partial survivor benefit


Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages to having a full spouse survivor benefit versus a partial survivor benefit?

When selecting a full or partial spouse survivor benefit upon CSRS retirement, how does that affect our Blue Cross/Blue Shield health coverage in retirement? Do we pay more out-of-pocket health care costs when selecting a partial spouse survivor benefit versus a full benefit?

A. A full survivor benefit, which you are required to provide by law unless your spouse agrees to a lesser amount or none at all, will provide him or her with an annuity that is 55 percent of your unreduced annuity. On the other hand, your annuity will be permanently reduced by approximately 10 percent to pay for it.

If you both agree to less than a full survivor annuity, which can be in any amount from $1 a year up, your spouse will get less in his or her survivor annuity. However, the reduction in your annuity also will be less.

Your health benefits coverage will remain the same regardless of the amount of survivor annuity you elect. However, if the amount is too small to pay the monthly premiums, your spouse would need to make the payments directly to the Office of Personnel Management.


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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