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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

Family Benefits

  • If you are in good health and you retire for reasons other than disability, you may elect to provide a survivor annuity to someone with an insurable interest. You can elect to provide an insurable interest benefit and the maximum benefit for a spouse or an ex-spouse. Spousal consent is not required. However, if you are married and elect an insurable interest benefit for your spouse, spousal consent is required. If you elect an insurable interest benefit, you are responsible for arranging for and paying the cost of any medical examination required to show you are in good health. A report of the medical examination should be included with your retirement application. You can elect to provide an insurable interest annuity only for someone who has an insurable interest in you. "Insurable interest" is an insurance term which applies to someone who would reasonably expect to derive financial benefit from your continued life. For survivor benefit election purposes, an insurable interest is presumed to exist if you name as beneficiary of the insurable interest, any of the following individuals:
    • a spouse;
    • a blood or adopted relative closer than first cousins;
    • an ex-spouse;
    • a person to whom you are engaged to be married; or
    • a person with whom you are living in a relationship that would constitute a common-law marriage in a jurisdiction that recognizes common-law marriages.
    If the person named is not one of the above, you should submit affidavits with your retirement application from one or more people with knowledge of the individual's insurable interest. The affidavits should state:
    • the relationship between you;
    • the extent to which the person named is dependent on you;
    • the reasons why the person named might reasonably expect to derive financial benefit from your continued life.
    The reduction to provide an insurable interest benefit is computed as follows:
    • If the person named is older, the same age, or less than 5 years younger than the retiree, the reduction is 10 percent;
    • If the person named is 5 but less than 10 years younger than the retiree, the reduction is 15 percent;
    • If the person named is 10 but less than 15 years younger than the retiree, the reduction is 20 percent;
    • If the person named is 15 but less than 20 years younger than the retiree, the reduction is 25 percent;
    • If the person named is 20 but less than 25 years younger than the retiree, the reduction is 30 percent;
    • If the person named is 25 but less than 30 years younger than the retiree, the reduction is 35 percent; or
    • If the person named is 30 or more years younger than the retiree, the reduction is 40 percent.
    The insurable interest automatically ends if the insurable interest dies, if you marry the insurable interest and elect to provide a spousal benefit, or if the named person is your spouse and you change your election to provide a spousal survivor benefit.
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  • A court order following annulment of marriage, legal separation, or divorce can divide or apportion your annuity. The order must expressly direct OPM to pay a portion of your monthly benefit. The spouse's share must be stated as a fixed amount, a percentage or fraction of your annuity, or by a formula with a readily apparent value. The amount cannot exceed the money payable to you after deductions for taxes and insurance. A court order may provide for payment of all or part of a refund of your retirement contributions. It may also block the refund payment, but only if the order directs us not to pay the refund and grants a survivor annuity or a portion of your annuity to a legally separated current spouse or former spouse.
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  • If you get married after retirement, you can elect a reduced annuity to provide a survivor annuity for your spouse. You must make this election within two years of the date of your marriage. Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), you can elect any portion of your annuity as a basis for the survivor benefit payable in the event of your death. Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), a full benefit is 50 percent of your unreduced annual basic annuity and a partial benefit is 25 percent of your unreduced annual basic annuity. If you remarry the same person to whom you were married at retirement, you cannot elect a survivor annuity greater than the one you elected at retirement. There will be two reductions in your annuity if you elect to provide the survivor benefit. One will be the reduction to provide the survivor benefit. The first reduction depends the amount you elect for the survivor annuity. Your annuity is also reduced by a permanent actuarial reduction equal to the difference between the new annuity rate with the survivor benefit and the old one without the survivor benefit since your retirement, plus 6 percent interest. In most cases, the actuarial reduction amount is less than 5 percent of your annuity. The actuarial reduction continues even if the marriage ends. When you contact us, we will send you a statement describing the cost of the election and ask you to confirm your election.
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  • Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Offset program, a survivor annuity for your spouse is computed in the same manner as a survivor annuity would be computed based on full CSRS coverage. However, under CSRS-Offset, your spouse's annuity may be reduced if he or she is eligible for social security benefits based on your federal service. If he or she is not eligible for social security benefits, the civil service annuity is not reduced. See additional information about death benefits.
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  • You should call us at (202) 606-0222. If we do not have a court order for child support, alimony, or bankruptcy, you can send a facsimile to us at (202) 606-7958 when a garnishment is involved. We need a certified copy of the court order and other supporting documents when an apportionment or survivor annuity is involved.
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  • Your family enrollment covers yourself, your current husband or wife, and your eligible unmarried children under age 22.
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  • Yes, but not under your family enrollment. There are two possible options for your former spouse to remain enrolled. First, all former spouses are eligible for a Temporary Continuation of Coverage enrollment that lasts for 36 months. Second, former spouses eligible for a monthly court-ordered benefit (either a portion of your monthly benefit, or a survivor benefit upon your death) are eligible for former spouse Federal health insurance. You may wish to review the health benefits information in the Attorney's Handbook or view additional information about Health Insurance.
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  • Survivor benefit elections for current and/or former spouses can be made only at retirement, or based on a qualifying event after retirement. The applications for retirement provide detailed information and instructions about these elections. If the marriage terminates after retirement, you must contact us and tell us that they want to elect to provide a survivor benefit for a former spouse. We will send the necessary explanation and forms to elect the benefit if you are eligible to make the election.
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  • You may make one of the following elections regarding a benefit to be paid to your spouse in the event of your death:
    • no survivor benefit;
    • partially reduced annuity; or
    • a fully reduced annuity.
    These elections may provide the following benefits:
    • no survivor benefit;
    • a full or partial annuity for a spouse;
    • a full or partial annuity for a former spouse; or
    • a combination of the two.
    Things to consider when making the election include:
    • your spouse's future retirement benefits based on his or her own employment;
    • other sources of income;
    • whether the other sources of income are protected against inflation with Cost-of-Living Adjustments; and
    • your spouse's need for continued coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.
    There is an opportunity to increase survivor benefits within 18 months after the annuity begins. However, this election may be more expensive than one made at retirement.
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  • If you retire under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), the maximum survivor benefit payable is 55 percent of your unreduced annual benefit. If you retire under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), the maximum survivor benefit payable is 50 percent of your unreduced annual benefit.
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