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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

Family Benefits

  • A court order related to your divorce or legal separation agreement can:

    • Divide your annuity;
    • Divide a refund of your retirement contributions made when you leave federal service before retirement;
    • Permit your ex-spouse to continue health insurance coverage;
    • Require you to assign your life insurance;
    • Garnish your annuity to pay alimony, child support, in cases involving child abuse, or for Chapter 13 bankruptcy;
    • Award life insurance; or
    • Award a survivor benefit.
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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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  • Your family enrollment covers yourself, your current spouse, and your eligible children under age 26.
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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 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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  • The IRS is responsible for the changes to the Federal income tax withholding tables. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has no control over the Federal income tax withholding tables. OPM used the tables provided by the IRS, which are set in law by the United States Congress.
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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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