Spousal annuity


Q. I am a CSRS Offset employee with 30-plus years’ service. My marriage to my same-sex partner is recognized by my state of residence but not by the federal government due to the Defense of Marriage Act. Because of DOMA, I cannot provide for a spousal survivor annuity, but I believe I could qualify (legally and in terms of health status) to provide an insurable interest annuity for him should I die first. Since there is less than three years’ difference in our ages, this seems like a close substitute for a surviving spouse annuity. What are the differences between the two? Will the annuity I receive during my life be in the same taxable amount as would be that of an employee whose spouse was of the opposite gender? Will the annuity my spouse would receive as a survivor be taxed the same way as a widow or widower would be taxed? Will the amount my spouse receives if I die first be adjusted the same way as a widow’s or widower’s annuity would be adjusted for changes in the cost of living? On the other hand, if I survive my spouse, would my annuity be returned to the full amount as that occurs when the spouse of an employee dies first? I appreciate any information you can provide. I haven’t found much on the OPM websites regarding how same-sex partners can protect one another.

A. Go to www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C052.pdf and scroll to Section 52A1.2F for a definition of insurable interest and Section 52A3.1, especially D, which details those for whom an insurable interest is presumed and F, those where evidence is required. Because the law hasn’t changed, you fall into the latter category. However, the fact that you are now married to your partner should provide all the needed evidence.

As you pointed out, because the difference in age between you and your partner is less than five years, the reduction in your annuity would be the same as if you were able to electing a survivor annuity, the benefit would be the same, that benefit would be increased by cost-of-living adjustments and, should the person you named die before you, your annuity would be prospectively returned to what it would have been had you not elected an insurable interest 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 fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

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