FEHB, survivor option and retired federal spouse


Q. My wife retired last year from the U.S. Forest Service under CSRS. She is covered under my FEHB self and family health insurance coverage. I work for NASA (37-plus years) and am planning to retire soon and will retain my FEHB coverage (I definitely meet the five-year requirement). I attended a NASA retirement planning course several years ago and was told I would have to take a survivorship option for my wife to continue coverage under FEHB if I die.

A few months ago, a co-worker retired from NASA (CSRS) and kept the FEHB coverage. His wife still works at NASA and is covered under his self and family option. He was told that because his wife also works for NASA and will retire under CSRS, he doesn’t have to get the survivorship option for her because she will have her own CSRS annuity when she retires and she would be allowed to join FEHB if and when he dies. Basically, she can join if he dies because after she retires, they can deduct the insurance premiums from her CSRS annuity.

This scenario is somewhat implied in some of the “FEHB Five-year Rule” guides (they clearly describe the case of a “nongovernmental spouse”), but I have yet to see the “government employee with government spouse” case clearly described.

If I don’t leave a survivor option for my wife (because she is retired and has a CSRS annuity), will she be able to — in the event of my death— convert my FEHBP plan to her annuity?

A. Let’s cut to the chase. For a surviving spouse to be eligible to continue coverage in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, he or she must be 1) covered by the program when the death occurs and 2) a CSRS or FERS employee or a retiree receiving an annuity, based on either his or her own work record or being a survivor.


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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