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Frequently Asked Questions Benefits for LGBT Federal Employees and Annuitants

Retirement Benefits

  • If you are single when you retire under FERS and then marry after retirement, you may elect to provide a survivor annuity for your spouse.  You must tell OPM in writing within two years after your marriage that you want to elect a survivor annuity for your spouse.  Your annuity will be subject to two reductions beginning on the first day of the first month that begins after you have been married for nine months.  The first reduction is the reduction required to provide the survivor annuity, equal to 10 percent of your annuity if you elect to provide your spouse the maximum survivor annuity or equal to 5 percent of your annuity if you elect to provide your spouse the partial survivor annuity.  The second reduction is the reduction to cover the deposit that you are required to pay if you elect a survivor annuity for your spouse.  The deposit equals the difference between the amount of the annuity you received before the survivor election for your spouse is effective (retroactive to the commencing date of your annuity) and the amount of annuity that you would have received had your survivor election been in effect as of the commencing date of your annuity, plus interest.   The reduction for the deposit is a permanent reduction and is calculated to spread out the collection of the deposit over your lifetime.

    If you are married when you retire under FERS, and your marriage subsequently ends, you may elect to provide a survivor annuity for another spouse whom you marry after retirement.  You have two years after your marriage to notify OPM in writing that you want to elect a survivor annuity for the spouse you married after retirement.  Your annuity will be subject to the two reductions described in the paragraph above – one reduction to reflect the reduction for the survivor election and the other reduction to cover the deposit required to make the election – and the reductions will be effective the first day of the second month after OPM receives your election, but not less than 9-months after the date of your post-retirement marriage.

    You can find more information about benefits changes based on a marriage after retirement by going to the Life Events webpage on Marriage/Divorce. You can also contact OPM Retirement Services to talk about the specifics of your case.

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  • Same-sex domestic partners are ineligible for a spousal survivor annuity benefit. However, employees may elect at retirement an insurable interest annuity for anyone, including domestic partners or partners to a civil union, as long as they can show they are in good health and the people designated for this benefit can show that they have an insurable interest in the continued life of the employee.  The Office of Personnel Management will presume a same-sex domestic partner has an insurable interest in the continued life of an employee.

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  • If you are a Federal employee, check with your agency’s HR office to obtain the forms to update your designation of beneficiary for CSRS or FERS retirement, Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI), and Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) (if you are a FERS employee).

    If you are a Federal retiree, contact OPM Retirement Services.
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  • Generally, if you are married at the time of retirement, you are required to provide full survivor annuity benefits for your spouse unless your spouse consents to a lesser amount or no survivor benefits.

    If no survivor benefit is payable, OPM will pay a lump-sum death benefit under the statutory order of precedence. Under the order of precedence, OPM must pay the lump-sum to any beneficiary the employee/retiree has designated as the recipient of that benefit. If the employee/retiree did not designate a beneficiary, then the next person entitled under the order of precedence is the surviving spouse.

    As for Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) benefits, the experts at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board provided this answer: “A participant can designate any individual, organization, a trust or will as a beneficiary without spousal consent. However the spouse must consent to withdrawal that it is in any form other than a joint life survivor annuity with the spouse as the joint annuitant.”

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  • Yes. If you are a retiree under the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employee Retirement System, contact OPM to make changes to your retirement based on your marriage.
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  • If a Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employee dies, recurring monthly payments may be made to the surviving spouse if the employee completed at least 18 months of creditable service and was covered under CSRS at the time of death.

    - To qualify for the monthly benefit, the surviving spouse must have been married to the employee for at least nine months prior to death.

    - If the death occurred before nine months, a survivor annuity may still be payable if the employee’s death was accidental or there was a child born of the marriage.

    If a Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) employee dies with at least 18 months of creditable civilian service under FERS, the Basic Employee Death Benefit may be available for the surviving spouse.  Additionally, if a FERS employee dies, recurring monthly payments may be made to the surviving spouse if the deceased employee completed at least 10 years of creditable service (18 months of which must be civilian service). The same nine-month marriage requirement exists for establishing entitlement to the FERS Basic Employee Death Benefit and the  FERS spousal survivor annuity , and the same exceptions to the 9-month marriage requirement apply (i.e., the 9-month marriage requirement will not apply if the employee’s death was accidental or there was a child born of the marriage).

    You can go to the Life Event webpage for Death/Survivors to learn more.

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  • If a retiree is married at retirement, an election for a survivor annuity benefit must be made at retirement, or if an annuitant wants to increase the amount of a survivor annuity provided to a spouse at retirement, the annuitant must elect that increase within 18 months of the retirement.

    If the retiree is not married at retirement but then gets married after retirement, the election needs to be made within the 2-year period following the marriage.  If a person elects a survivor annuity for a spouse acquired after marriage, OPM must reduce the annuitant’s annuity by the cost of the survivor annuity benefit. Additionally, OPM must collect a deposit (through an actuarial reduction to the annuitant’s annuity) representing the amount the annuitant would have received had the survivor election been in place from the annuity commencing date to the effective date of the election, plus interest.

    You can find more information about electing survivor annuity benefits after retirement by going to the Life Events webpage on Marriage/Divorce. You can also call contact OPM Retirement Services to talk about the specifics of your case.

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  • OPM issued Federal Register notices on August 2, 2013, and September 25, 2014, providing retirees, annuitants, and surviving spouses information regarding their rights and obligations associated with survivor annuity benefits for same-sex spouses.  See 78 Fed. Reg. 47018 and 79 Fed. Reg. 57589. Additionally, in December 2013 and December 2014, OPM sent annuitants their annual “Notice of Annuity Adjustments,” and included information in these notices about making survivor annuity elections for same-sex spouses.

    Retirees who marry after retirement should contact OPM within two years of the marriage to make a survivor annuity election for their newly acquired spouse.

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  • If you divorce and remarry prior to retirement, you must elect to provide a full survivor benefit for your current spouse, unless you get your spouse’s consent to elect less than a full survivor benefit. Contact your HR office for information on the cost of providing a survivor benefit to a current spouse and/or a former spouse.

    If you divorce and remarry after retirement, you are not required to elect a survivor annuity for a spouse acquired after retirement, but you may voluntarily choose to do so.  You must make this election within 2 years of the date of marriage.  You may also voluntarily elect a survivor benefit for a former spouse within 2 years of divorce.  Contact OPM for information on the cost of providing a survivor benefit to a current spouse and/or a former spouse.

    If you divorce, a court order may award your former spouse a full or partial survivor benefit.  You should notify OPM of your divorce and provide a copy of any court orders issued pursuant to the divorce.  Provisions in a court order awarding a survivor annuity benefit to a former spouse will supersede an election made on behalf a current spouse.  The current spouse becomes a contingent beneficiary and may receive any remaining survivor benefit not otherwise awarded and/or will receive the portion of the survivor annuity benefit elected for the current spouse should the former spouse lose entitlement as a result of death or remarriage.

    For additional information on this subject, please visit your agency HR Office or go to the OPM Retirement Services Life Events webpage on Marriage/Divorce.

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