FEHB, survivor annuity and retirement


Q. My husband and I work for the federal government. He plans to retire soon; however, I will continue working. The Request for Retirement Annuity Computation form asks if he wants to elect a survivor annuity for his spouse. The notes section immediately below this question states the following: “You must elect a survivor annuity for your spouse to be eligible to continue coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB), unless your spouse is a federal employee with his/her own entitlement to FEHB.”

This note has thrown me for an absolute loop. I don’t understand the correlation between my husband opting to set up a survivor annuity (to be used as I see fit, I think), even if we both will still be covered under FEHB (I’ll carry the coverage), versus the non-necessity for him to elect a survivor annuity.

Isn’t the survivor annuity a monthly payment for the surviving spouse — period? Or does it have to be used for health care? I just don’t get how the two relate.

A. Unless a federal employee’s spouse is also a federal employee, the only way that spouse could continue to be covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits program if the retiree dies is to be receiving a survivor annuity. The language you read was designed to protect the vast majority of spouses who aren’t federal employees.


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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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