Spouse's Survivor Benefit at the Time of Death

By on April 15, 2015 in Q&A, Retirement with 3 Comments

Q: I am 60 years old and under FERS. I have more than 30 years of federal service. My family history has a lot of early death: father at 60, grandfather at 59, etc. While I may live longer than my heritage might otherwise indicate, most literature indicates that I should not retire before age 62 and better yet, not until I turn full retirement age of 66. This is fine as I would like to continue to work at least until I’m 62 for sure but if I don’t survive to retire, would my wife be able to apply for a survivor’s pension based on my being eligible for retirement at the time I died?

A: Your wife would be eligible for both a survivor annuity and a lump-sum payment if you die while still working.  The size of the survivor annuity would depend on how many years you had at the time of your death.  Lets say that your high-three is $100,000 and you had 30 years of federal service at the time of your death.  Your wife would be entitled to a survivor annuity of $15,000 per year.  Basically, a pension amount is calculated for you and your wife would receive one-half of that amount.  30 years of service, under FERS is equal to 30%.  If you wife were enrolled with you on a self and family policy at the time of your death, she would be entitled to continue coverage under FEHB and Uncle Sam would still pay his share.

Spouses of employees who do not have 10 years of service are not entitled to a survivor annuity.

In addition, your wife would be eligible for a lump-sum payment that would be equal to 50% of your final salary or high-three (whichever is higher) plus a fixed amount that for 2015 is $32,326.57.  Assuming that your $100,000 high three is used, your wife’s lump sum payment would be $82,326.57.

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© 2016 John Grobe. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from John Grobe.


About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a consulting firm that specializes in federal retirement and career transition issues. He is also affiliated with TSP Safety Net. John retired from federal service after 25 years of progressively more responsible human resources positions. He is the author of Understanding the Federal Retirement Systems and Career Transition: A Guide for Federal Employees, both published by the Federal Management Institute. Federal Career Experts provides pre-retirement seminars for a wide variety of federal agencies.