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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

Death Benefits

  • Survivor annuities are payable through the end of the month prior to the date of the event which caused the loss of eligibility. For example, if the remarriage or other event occurred in April, benefits would end on March 31. Survivor annuities payable to widows, widowers, and former spouses end if the survivor remarries before age 55 and was not married for at least 30 years to the deceased employee or annuitant. Widows, widowers, and former spouses who remarry after they reach age 55 continue to be eligible for survivor annuity benefits. The survivor annuity for a former spouse who is entitled because of a court order, ends if the terms of the court order are satisfied. Insurable interest annuities are payable for the life of the survivor. If an annuity to a surviving spouse ends for a remarriage, it can be restored if the remarriage ends. Before the benefit can be restored, the survivor must pay back any lump sum payment of retirement contributions, if applicable. Former spouse benefits that end because of a remarriage can never be restored. If you want your annuity restored, write to us and include a copy of the decree of divorce, annulment, or death certificate. Annuity benefits for children end when the child reaches age 18, marries, or dies. Survivor annuities are payable through the end of the month prior to the date of the event which caused the loss of eligibility. For example, if the child turns 18 on June 29, benefits would end on May 31. Benefits for student children, stop at the end of the month before the one in which the student child:
    • turns 22;
    • marries;
    • dies;
    • stops attending school;
    • transfers to a school that is not recognized;
    • changes to less than full-time attendance;
    • enters military service or a Government service academy; or
    • fails to submit certification of full-time school attendance.
    You must notify us immediately if any of the above events occurs to minimize the potential for an overpayment of benefits. Include your claim number and a copy of any appropriate record such as a marriage certificate.
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  • You may receive a CSRS survivor annuity and social security payments. You may receive a FERS survivor annuity and social security payments.  However, if you are the survivor of a FERS retiree, you cannot receive the FERS survivor supplement if you are eligible for social security mother, father or disability benefits based on the deceased annuitant’s account.  Please contact the local office of the Social Security Administration for information about social security benefits. If you receive social security benefits based on your own employment, there may be a reduction in the social security benefit you receive based on your deceased spouse's service. Contact the Social Security Administration for more information about the Government Pension Offset at http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10007.html. See the information below about benefits which may be payable to the surviving spouse of a deceased annuitant who was covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Offset program. Under these circumstances, a survivor may be eligible for both a CSRS annuity and social security benefits.
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  • To report a death of someone who receives benefits from us, you can:
    • Contact us online:  Report a Death
    • Call us: 1-88USOPMRET — 1 (888)767-6738
    • Write to us at:
    U.S. Office of Personnel Management Retirement Services Program Post Office Box 45 Boyers, PA 16017-0045
    If you are reporting the death of someone who receives benefits from us, please provide us with the full name of the deceased and date of death, as well as the retirement claim number, if known, and social security number. You should also include your name, address, and telephone number. When we receive the report that someone who receives benefits from us has died, we will stop annuity payments and ask survivors who may be eligible for benefits to apply. In many cases, we can start monthly payments to an eligible surviving spouse based on the records on file. Payments made to a retiree after the date of his or her death are not negotiable. In addition, survivors may not be eligible for the full amount of such payments. Therefore, the Department of the Treasury will reclaim all direct deposit payments made after the date of death from the financial institution to which they were disbursed. The financial institution will debit the account to which the payments were previously credited. The annuitant's account should remain open until reclamation of any payments is completed. Uncashed checks payable to the deceased must be returned to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. You should void any uncashed checks by noting the annuitant's date of death on them before returning them. Voided checks should be returned to the following address: U.S. Department of the Treasury P.O. Box 24720 Oakland, CA 94623-1720 In addition, Benefit Officers can use our website to report the death of an employee and help us expedite payments to family members.
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  • Survivors of Annuitants Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)- The maximum annuity for a spouse who survives an annuitant is 55 percent of the annuitant's benefit before it is reduced by the cost of the election to provide the survivor benefit. Generally, this equals 60 percent of the annuitant's current gross annuity. The survivor annuity will be less if the annuitant elected at retirement to provide less than the maximum benefit. For example, if an annuitant whose unreduced annual benefit is $31,003.24 elected to provide the maximum benefit, the survivor annuity would equal $31,003.24 x 55 percent = $17,051.78. Survivors of Employees Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)- The annuity payable to the surviving spouse of an employee whose death occurs while employed with the Federal Government is 55 percent of the annuity computed as if the employee had retired on disability as of the date of his or her death. An employee's surviving spouse receives 55 percent of the higher of:
    • An annuity computed under the formula based on the employee's service, salary, and sick leave. Refer to Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Computation for information about the computation of an employee's annuity.
    • A guaranteed minimum annuity which is the lesser of:
      • Forty percent of the employee's high-3 average salary; or
      • The regular annuity obtained after increasing the employee's length of service by the period of time between the date of the employee's death and the date he or she would have reached age 60.
    If, at the date of the employee's death, he or she was a law enforcement officer or firefighter who had at least 20 years of service as a law enforcement officer, firefighter or nuclear materials courier, the surviving spouse would receive 55 percent of the annuity computed under the special provisions for law enforcement officers, firefighters and nuclear materials couriers. If the employee performed service as a law enforcement officer or firefighter but was not employed in such a capacity at the time of his or her death; or, if he or she was a law enforcement officer or firefighter but was not age 50 with at least 20 years of law enforcement service or firefighter service, survivors can receive an annuity computation that is enhanced for the law enforcement or firefighter service on a pro-rated basis. If, at the date of the employee's death, he or she was age 50 and had performed at least 20 years of air traffic controller service; or, regardless of age, had at least 25 years of air traffic controller service, the surviving spouse receives 55 percent of an annuity computed under the special formula for air traffic controllers. Survivors of Annuitants Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)- Monthly Annuity- The maximum monthly annuity for a spouse who survives a FERS annuitant is 50 percent of the annuitant's benefit before it is reduced by the cost of the election to provide the survivor benefit.   The survivor annuity will be 25% of the annuitant’s benefit, if the annuitant elected at retirement to provide a partial survivor benefit. For example, if an annuitant whose unreduced annual benefit is $31,003.24 elected to provide the maximum benefit, the survivor annuity would equal $31,003.24 x 50 percent = $15,501.62. Survivors of Employees Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)- Monthly Annuity- The monthly annuity payable to the surviving spouse of an employee whose death occurs while employed with the Federal Government is 50 percent of the annuity computed as if the employee had retired as of the date of his/her death. The monthly annuity payable to the surviving spouse of the employee is 50 percent of the annuity computed under the special formula for law enforcement officers, firefighters, and air traffic controllers if, at the date of death, the employee was:
    • Age 50 or older and had at least 20 years of law enforcement, firefighter and/or nuclear materials courier service, or 20 years of air traffic controller service; or
    • Was any age with at least 25 years of law enforcement, firefighter or nuclear materials courier service, or 25 years of air traffic controller service.
    Basic Employee Death Benefit- Amount of the Basic Employee Death Benefit:
    • 50% of the employee’s final salary (average salary, if higher), plus
    • $15,000 increased by Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) cost-of-living adjustments beginning 12/1/87.  For deaths on or after 12/1/07, this amount is $28,093.53.  It will be updated by future CSRS cost-of-living adjustments.
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  • If no survivor annuity is payable upon the retiree's death, any remaining portion, representing either the remaining annuity and/or retirement contributions not paid to the retiree, is payable to the person(s) eligible under the order of precedence. If the court assigned payment under a court order, we will pay the lump sum in accordance with that court order. Otherwise, we will pay benefits under the following order of precedence:
    • to the designated beneficiary;
    • if there is no such beneficiary, to the widow or widower;
    • if none of the above, to the child or children, with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child (a court will usually have to appoint a guardian to receive payment for a minor child);
    • if none of the above, to the parents in equal shares or the entire amount to a surviving parent;
    • if none of the above, to the executor or administrator of the estate; or
    • if none of the above, to the next of kin as determined under the laws of the State where the retiree lived.
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  • The Office of Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (OFEGLI) will pay life insurance benefits in a particular order, set by law:
    • If the annuitant or employee assigned ownership of life insurance, OFEGLI will pay benefits in the following order of precedence:
      • First to the beneficiary designated by the assignee(s), if any;
      • Second, if there is no such beneficiary, to the assignee(s).
    • If the annuitant or employee did not assign ownership and there is a valid court order on file, OFEGLI will pay benefits in accordance with that court order.
    • If the annuitant or employee did not assign ownership and there is no valid court order on file, OFEGLI will pay benefits in the following order of precedence:
      • to the beneficiary designated;
      • if there is no such beneficiary, to the widow or widower;
      • if none of the above, to the child(ren), with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child (a court will usually have to appoint a guardian to receive payment for a minor child);
      • if none of the above, to the parents in equal shares or the entire amount to the surviving parent;
      • if none of the above, to the executor or administrator of the estate; or
      • if none of the above, to the next of kin as determined under the laws of the State where the annuitant or employee lived.
    If you are an annuitant, you can download [119 KB] the Standard Form (SF) 2823, Designation of Beneficiary, and instructions, or contact us and ask that they be sent to you. You need to keep your designated beneficiaries' addresses current. Failure to do so may mean that your beneficiary cannot be located and therefore benefits will not be paid to that person. The preferred way is to file a new Designation of Beneficiary when a beneficiary's address changes. A new address cannot be added directly to the Designation of Beneficiary form itself, since any cross outs, erasures, or alterations in your form may make it invalid.
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  • If you are the surviving spouse of a deceased retiree, recurring monthly payments may be made to you if your spouse elected a reduced annuity to provide the benefit. To qualify for the monthly benefit, you must have been married to the retiree for at least nine months. A survivor annuity may still be payable if the retiree's death occurred before nine months if the death was accidental or there was a child born of your marriage to the retiree. A court order awarding a former spouse a survivor annuity may prevent us from paying you the portion of the annuity awarded under the court order. However, if otherwise eligible, you may receive the complete annuity if the former spouse loses eligibility for benefits. Read about survivor benefit elections. If no survivor annuity is payable upon the retiree's death, any remaining portion, representing either the remaining annuity and/or retirement contributions not paid to the retiree, is payable to the person(s) eligible under the order of precedence. See how the amount of the monthly survivor benefit is determined.
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  • In many cases, after receiving the report of a retiree's death, we can start monthly payments to those who are eligible based on the records we have on file. In every case, we will tell you what benefits are payable and provide the necessary forms and help to apply for benefits. If you are the survivor of an employee who has passed away while working for the Federal Government, please contact the personnel office of the Federal agency where the employee worked. You should complete the following form- If the employee was covered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) at the time of death: Application for Death Benefits/CSRS, Standard Form (SF) 2800 [806 KB] If the employee was covered under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) at the time of death: Application for Death Benefits/FERS, Standard Form (SF) 3104 [741 KB] If you are the survivor of an employee who has passed away after separating from a position with the Federal Government under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), but before receiving any retirement benefits, you should file the following form- Application for Death Benefits/FERS, Standard Form (SF) 3104 [741 KB] Attach any other forms and/or evidence as the application or circumstances require. Attach a copy of the employee’s death certificate and a copy of the certificate of the marriage to the widow or widower. Give the application to the personnel office. A widow or widower who is claiming benefits for himself or herself and on behalf of children should file one application. If a lump sum payment is due following the death of someone who passed away after leaving Government service but before retirement, please complete the Application for Death Benefits, Standard Form (SF) 2800 [806 KB] and attach any other forms and/or evidence as the application or circumstances require. Send it to this address.
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  • You can roll over lump sum payments representing the deceased's retirement contributions and applicable interest and the FERS Basic Employee Death Benefit. An eligible payment can be paid either to you or directly to an individual retirement account or other employer sponsored plan. Your choice will affect the amount of taxes you owe. We are required to withhold Federal income tax from taxable payments over $200 at the rate of 20 percent. However, you may choose to take all or part of these payments in a direct rollover to an individual retirement account or an employer-sponsored retirement plan that accepts rollovers. The taxable portion can be rolled over into the Thrift Saving Plan. If you make this election, we will not withhold the Federal income tax from the taxable payments. You can open an individual retirement account to receive a direct rollover. You must contact the individual retirement account sponsor to find out how to have your payment made to your account. If you are unsure of how to invest your money, you may wish to temporarily establish an account to receive the payment. However, you may wish to consider whether or not you may move any or all of the monies to another account at a later date without penalties or limitations. If you choose to have the payment made to you and it is over $200, it is subject to the 20 percent Federal income tax withholding. The payment is taxed in the year in which it is received unless within 60 days after receiving it, you roll it over to an individual retirement account or retirement plan that accepts rollovers. You can rollover up to 100 percent of the eligible distribution, including the 20 percent withholding. To do so, you must replace the 20 percent withholding within the 60 day period. You will be taxed on any amount that you do not roll over. For example, if you roll over only the 80 percent of the distribution, you will be taxed on the remaining 20 percent. You can find more information about the taxation of payments from qualified retirement plans from the following Internal Revenue Service publications: We will withhold Federal income tax of ten percent if your total taxable lump sum is less than $200. We will request a rollover election when you are eligible for a payment of $200 or more.
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  • If you are a widow or widower of an individual who died as an employee or retiree, your survivor annuity begins on the day after the employee's or retiree's death. If you are a widow or widower of a former FERS employee who was separated from Federal service when he/she died, but had not yet retired, your annuity begins on the date the deceased former employee would have been eligible for an unreduced annuity.  You have the option to begin receiving the benefit at a lower rate on the day after the former employee’s death.  If you are eligible for benefits and we are unable to pay you because a former spouse is entitled, your annuity would begin the day after the former spouse loses entitlement to benefits. If you are eligible for a survivor annuity because of your insurable interest in the life of the annuitant, your survivor annuity begins on the day after the annuitant's death. If you are a former spouse who was awarded a survivor annuity based on a court order, your survivor annuity begins to accrue on whichever day is later: the day after the employee's or retiree's death or the first day of the second month after we receive a certified copy of the court order along with any additional necessary supporting documentation. If you are a former spouse who is eligible for benefits based on the retiree's election of a reduced annuity to provide the benefit, your annuity begins to accrue the day after the retiree's death. If you are eligible for benefits and we are unable to pay you because another former spouse is entitled, your annuity would begin the day after the former spouse loses entitlement to benefits. If you are a child of a deceased employee or annuitant, your survivor annuity begins to accrue on the day after the employee's or retiree's death.
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