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On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will now be able to extend certain benefits to Federal employees and annuitants who have legally married a spouse of the same sex, regardless of the employee's or annuitant’s state of residency. OPM is currently in the process of updating and revising the website to reflect this change, and will be updating this information as soon as possible. Please check back in the coming weeks for updates.
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
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
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
- To qualify
for the monthly benefit, the surviving spouse must have been married to the
employee for at least nine months prior to death.
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
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).
can go to the Life
Event webpage for Death/Survivors to learn more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
additional information on this subject, please visit your agency HR Office or
go to the OPM
Retirement Services Life Events webpage on Marriage/Divorce.
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.
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
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
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.
In addition to annual leave, same-sex domestic partners, the children of an employee’s same-sex domestic partner, and some other relatives of the employee’s same-sex domestic partner have been identified by OPM as “family members” for the purposes of sick leave (5 C.F.R. § 630.201), funeral leave (5 C.F.R. § 630.803), the Voluntary Leave Transfer (VLTP) Program (5 C.F.R. § 630.902), the Voluntary Leave Bank (VLBP) Program (5 C.F.R. § 630.1002), and the Emergency Leave Transfer (ELT) Program (5 C.F.R. § 630.1102). For information on the family members covered, please see OPM’s fact sheet Definitions Related to Family Member and Immediate Relative for Purposes of Sick Leave, Funeral Leave, Voluntary Leave Transfer, Voluntary Leave Bank, and Emergency Leave Transfer (http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/FamilyDefs.asp).
More details may be found in the OPM fact sheets:
Sick Leave (General Information)(http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/sicklv.asp),
Sick Leave for Family Care or Bereavement Purposes(http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/sickfam.asp),
Sick Leave to Care for a Family Member with a Serious Health Condition (http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/12week.asp),
Voluntary Leave Transfer Program(http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/VLtP.asp),
Voluntary Leave Bank Program(http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/VLBP.asp), and
Emergency Leave Transfer Program(http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/ELTP.asp).
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.
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.
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.
Because the individuals for whom an employee can provide care under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are specified in statute, an employee may take FMLA leave only to care for spouses, sons and daughters under 18 or over 18 but incapable of self care because of a mental or physical disability, and parents. Employees may take FMLA leave for the care of sons and daughters of their same-sex domestic partner. See Compensation Policy Memorandum (CPM) 2010-15, Interpretation of “Son or Daughter” Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, August 31, 2010 (http://www.chcoc.gov/Transmittals/TransmittalDetails.aspx?TransmittalID=3122).
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