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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

Family Benefits

  • The survivor benefit you elected at retirement is no longer payable. A monthly survivor benefit would be payable to your former spouse after death if one is provided by court order or your new election.

    The following conditions must exist for your former spouse to receive a benefit:

    • You were married to your former spouse for at least nine months;
    • You performed at least 18 months of creditable civilian service;
    • Your former spouse to whom you were married less than 30 years has not remarried before age 55.

    Your annuity may be reduced if your former spouse was awarded a survivor annuity by a qualifying court order.

    If you retired on or after May 7, 1985, we will honor the terms of a court order that requires you to provide a survivor annuity for an eligible former spouse for a marriage dissolved on or after May 7, 1985. If you are divorced after retirement from a spouse to whom you were married at retirement, we will honor the court order to the extent that your annuity was reduced at retirement. If you did not elect a survivor annuity for that person at retirement, your annuity will not be reduced.

    If you retired before May 7, 1985, we will honor the terms of a qualifying court order that requires you to provide a survivor annuity for an eligible former spouse in connection with a marriage that was dissolved on or after May 7, 1985, but only if you were married to that person at retirement and elected to provide a survivor annuity at that time or your were married to that person at retirement and elected to provide a survivor annuity before May 7, 1985.

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  • OPM provides a federal tax calculator on our website, www.opm.gov/retire, that may assist you in determining the amount of Federal income tax to withhold. Please be advised that changing the amount of your Federal income tax withholding will not reduce your tax liability at the end of the tax year.
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  • Monthly payments to a surviving spouse generally continue for life unless your spouse remarries before age 55. If your spouse was married to you for at least 30 years, he or she can continue receiving benefits when there is a remarriage before age 55 occurring after January 1, 1995.
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  • For more information regarding Federal income taxes, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov or call the IRS on 1-800-829-1040.
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  • A divorce, legal separation, or annulment court order may require that an employee or a retiree provide a survivor annuity for a former spouse. We will pay based on the court order after a death-in-service or after the death of an annuitant. If the benefit will be based on a court order, employees and retirees [or their former spouses] need to send us a court-certified copy of the court order. Send this to:

    U. S. Office of Personnel Management
    Retirement Services Program
    Court-Order Benefits Branch
    Post Office Box 17
    Washington, DC 20044-0017

     

    If you are still working for the Federal Government, you should also provide a copy of the court order to your personnel or human resources office. All court orders involving garnishments or allotments of your payments from us must be sent to the address given above.

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  • 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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  • 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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  • The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act was passed by the United States Congress on December 16, 2010 and signed into law on December 17, 2010. As a result, the IRS published the tax withholding tables later than usual for 2011. OPM applied the tax tables as quickly as possible but there was not enough time to apply these tables to the January 3, 2011 annuity payments.
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  • The withholding changes affect the February 1, 2011 payment and subsequent annuity payments.
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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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