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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

How is the amount of my benefits as a surviving spouse determined?

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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