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Retirement FAQs

  • Please refer to our answers about payment information.
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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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  • Please report it here: https://apps.opm.gov/retire/payment/missing_pay.cfm.  If you are unable to use the website, you can report it by contacting OPM’s Retirement Office at 1-888-767-6738 or retire@opm.gov.  The phone lines are open from 7:30 am to 7:45 pm (Eastern Standard Time). It is a busy phone number so we encourage you to call early in the morning or after 5:00 pm when the phone lines are less busy.
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  • Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), the maximum benefit payable after your death to survivors other than children is 55 percent of your annual benefit. Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), the maximum is 50 percent. So, the benefit payable to your husband or wife would equal the difference between the court-ordered benefit for your ex-spouse and the maximum benefit payable. For example, if the court awarded your former spouse a benefit equal to 35 percent of your Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) annuity, your husband or wife could only receive a benefit equal to 20 percent. If your former spouse was awarded the maximum survivor benefit, you can elect a survivor benefit for your spouse on a contingency basis. In this case, your spouse would be paid the survivor benefit upon your death if your former spouse becomes ineligible for the survivor benefit. If you do not provide a survivor benefit for your husband or wife, he or she will not receive a monthly benefit payment after your death. Your spouse would not be able to continue coverage under the Federal Employees' Health Benefits (FEHB) program. If a court-ordered benefit for a former spouse will prevent a spouse from receiving a benefit that is sufficient to meet anticipated needs, you may want to provide an insurable interest benefit for your spouse. In order to elect the insurable interest benefit, both you and your spouse must jointly waive the benefit which could be elected as spouse. Your annuity will be reduced to provide the court-ordered benefit and the insurable interest's benefit. If the ex-spouse loses entitlement to the court-ordered benefit, you can request that the insurable interest benefit be changed to a fully reduced annuity to provide a benefit for the spouse within two years after the ex-spouse loses entitlement.
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  • Recurring monthly payments may be made to the former spouse of a deceased retiree if the retiree elected a reduced annuity to provide the benefit or the benefit is payable under a court order. A former spouse must also meet the nine month marriage requirement. For additional information about court-ordered benefits, refer to the pamphlet, "Court-Ordered Benefits for Former Spouses [7 MB],"and see family benefits for information about survivor benefit elections. See how the amount of the former spouse survivor benefit is determined.
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  • Please refer to our answer about powers of attorney.
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  • A child can continue to receive benefits after reaching age 18 if he or she is incapable of self-support because of a disability which began before age 18. If the disabled child is under age 18 when you apply for benefits, we do not need additional information. However, when the child is within three months of reaching age 18 or over age 18, you should send us the information described in disabling conditions for children. A child can also continue to receive benefits until age 22 if he or she is a full-time student. If the child is listed on the application for benefits as a full-time student who is age 18 or more, we will send a request for certification of school attendance to be completed by the person who expects to receive payments and the school. See more information about the eligibility of full-time students. Annuity payments continue between school years unless the break is more than five months or the student does not plan to return to school on a full-time basis. If the student plans to be out of school for more than five months, we cannot pay benefits. If he or she plans to return to school within five months, but does not do so, benefits stop at the end of the month before the change of plans.
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  • The Treasury Department is fully committed to helping Americans be prepared for and make the transition to the electronic payment of federal benefits. The Treasury Department has launched the Go Direct public education campaign to communicate with Americans about the new electronic payments requirement. The campaign will do so with the help of nearly 1,800 national, local and regional partner organizations, as well as through events, media coverage, print materials and the Internet. Campaign materials and websites in English and Spanish also are available at www.GoDirect.org and www.DirectoASuCuenta.org.   (Visit www.GoDirect.org for more information about fees and the surcharge-free network.)  
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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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  • When you die, the Office of Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (OFEGLI) will pay life insurance benefits in a particular order, set by law:
    • If you assigned ownership of your life insurance, OFEGLI will pay benefits in the following order of precedence:
        • First to the designated beneficiary(ies) designated by your assignee(s), if any;
        • Second, if there is no such beneficiary, to your assignee(s).
    • If you did not assign ownership and there is a valid court order on file, OFEGLI will pay benefits in accordance with that court order;
    • If you did not assign ownership and there is no valid court order on file, OFEGLI will pay benefits in the following order of precedence:
        • First, to the beneficiary you designated;
        • Second, if there is no such beneficiary, to your widow or widower;
        • Third, if none of the above, to your 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);
        • Fourth, if none of the above, to your parents in equal shares or the entire amount to your surviving parent;
        • Fifth, if none of the above, to the executor or administrator of your estate; or
        • Sixth, if none of the above, to your other next of kin as determined under the laws of the State where you lived.
    You can download the Standard Form (SF) 2823 [119 KB], 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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  • Most services are free. There is no cost to sign up for the card and there are no monthly fees or overdraft fees. While there are fees for a limited number of optional transactions, it is possible to use the card for free.   Free services include:
    • Purchases at retail locations. 
    • Cash back with purchases.
    • Optional notification by phone, email or text message of deposits.
    • Optional low balance alert when account balance falls below a certain level.
    • Access to the website 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    • Unlimited balance inquiries at ATMs, by phone or online.
    • Access to the toll-free customer service number 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    • Cash withdrawals through bank or credit union tellers.
    • One free replacement card per year.
    • One free ATM cash withdrawal for each deposit posted to the card account each month, provided that one of the approximately 50,000 surcharge-free network ATMs is used.
      Optional services available for a fee include
    • More than one ATM withdrawal per deposit ($0.90 per withdrawal).
    • ATM owner fees called "surcharge fees" may apply if one of the approximately 50,000 surcharge-free network ATMs is not used.
    • Mailing a monthly paper statement ($0.75 per month).
    • Transfer of money from the card account to a personal United States bank account ($1.50).
    • Card replacement after one free replacement card per year ($4.00 per card). If you request expedited delivery, there is an additional charge of $13.50. There is no additional charge for standard delivery.
    • Purchases at merchant locations or ATM cash withdrawals outside of the United States.
    Visit www.GoDirect.org for more information on fees and the surcharge-free network.
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  • The children's survivor benefit is a specific dollar amount established by a formula in the governing United States Code and is increased by Cost-of-Living Adjustments. Each child's rate is determined individually based on the circumstances described below. When the child has a living parent who was married to the employee or retiree, the benefit payable to the child is the lesser of:
    • $469 per month per child; or
    • $1,409 per month divided by the number of eligible children.
    When the child does not have a living parent who was married to the employee or retiree, the benefit payable to the child is the lesser of:
    • $563 per month per child; or
    • $1,691 per month divided by the number of eligible children.
    The rates quoted above are payable from December 1, 2009 through November 30, 2010. They will be increased by future Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Cost-of-Living Adjustments. If the deceased retired under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or was an employee covered under FERS at the time of death, the combined benefit of all the children is reduced by the total amount of child’s benefits that are payable (or would, upon proper application, be payable) under Title II of the Social Security Act for the same month to all children of the deceased based on the total earnings of the deceased.  In many cases, the FERS children’s benefit is reduced to $0.
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  • Yes. Currently every survivor receives a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) effective each December first. It will be first reflected in the January payment which pays annuity for the month of December. We will send a Notice of Annuity Adjustment showing how much the benefit was increased. See more information about Cost-of-Living Adjustments.
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  • If you were enrolled in a self and family plan at the time of your death AND a monthly survivor benefit is payable your spouse and eligible dependents can continue your health insurance.  If a monthly benefit is not payable, your spouse and eligible family members will have a one-time opportunity to enroll in private health coverage with the carrier.
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  • The Go Direct campaign launched in 2005 as part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's and the Federal Reserve Banks' effort to increase the use of electronic payments for federal benefits and to reduce the use of paper checks for federal benefit payments. With the help of organization partners, media and events, the campaign educates Americans by providing the tools and resources they need to enroll in, or transition to, electronic federal benefit payments.   (Visit www.GoDirect.org for more information about fees and the surcharge-free network.)
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Total Count: 415, Number of Pages: 28, Page: 11
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