Q. Regarding your article on survivor benefits published Feb. 18, it was my understanding that under CSRS, an employee could designate a permanent reduction in their annuity to enable a surviving spouse to receive a portion of the annuity upon the employee’s death after retirement. Since I saw no reference to this in the article, and it would have no impact on the employee while still working, is my understanding incorrect? Outdated?
A. That column included information about specific death benefits available to the survivors of federal employees who die in service. What you are asking about is the survivor benefit that a retiring employee can elect for a spouse. Under CSRS, a full survivor benefit is 55 percent of the annuity a retiree is entitled to before any reductions are made in it for such things as federal taxes, health benefits, etc. Under FERS, a full survivor annuity is 50 percent. Both systems permit the election of a lesser amount but only with the signed and notarized consent of the spouse.