Survivor annuity


Q. My wife and I are both federal employees. I am CSRS and she is FERS. Since 2009, I have carried “family” health coverage that is deducted from my CSRS paycheck to cover our health insurance needs. Prior to 2009, she carried her own federal health insurance. She has had no break in federal service (health care coverage) between 1988 and August 2012. Should I precede my wife in death, how much spousal retirement benefit should I leave her so she can continue to receive full federal health insurance benefits?

I have been told that all I have to leave her is $0.01 for the “letter of the law” to be met for full health benefits to be passed on to her. Is this true? I also realize that with $0.01 she would be billed each month for the entire insurance premium and that is why the spousal benefit is usually put at an amount that would at least  pay for the monthly health insurance premium. If what I typed is correct than is the amount I can provide my spouse upon my death anywhere in the range between $0.01 (minimum) and 50 percent (maximum) of my retirement annuity for her to be able to retain full federal health care benefits?

I turned 65 in February and have been employed as a CSRS federal employee since 1977.  As required by law, I signed up for Medicare Part A. Once I retire, should I pay for Part B, or will my federal health insurance coverage always be adequate for covering my health insurance needs and those of my wife? We both are carrying long-term health care coverage through a nongovernment-sponsored plan.

A. Let’s get one thing out of the way. You have to provide your spouse with a full survivor annuity unless she agrees in writing to a lesser amount or none at all. As a CSRS employee, the minimum survivor annuity you could provide her would be $1. The air being cleared, let’s move on.

Because she is a federal employee who has been covered by your self-and-family FEHB enrollment, if you were to die, she could continue that coverage and have the premiums taken out of her pay. If you were to die after she retired, she could have the premiums taken out of her annuity.

Only if she resigned from the government instead of retiring would you have had to provide her with some amount of annuity for her to continue FEHB coverage.


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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

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