The FEHB Five Year Requirement and Your Spouse

By on November 15, 2015 in Current Events, Retirement with 26 Comments

FedSmith recently posted an article of mine that dealt with the requirement that an individual must have been enrolled in Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) for the five years immediately preceding retirement in order to carry said insurance into retirement. (See FEHB and the Five Year Requirement)

One of the points made regarding FEHB follows:

  • The five years refers to your enrollment.  Your spouse does not have to be enrolled for the five years immediately preceding your retirement in order to be covered.  You can bring your spouse on your insurance at any time before retirement, or even after retirement.  Do be aware that if you die after retirement but before bringing your spouse on your FEHB, your spouse will not be able to continue FEHB, even if you have elected a survivor annuity.

I was concerned that many employees who contacted me after the article appeared had been told by their human resources offices and by pre-retirement seminar providers that the five year requirement also applied to the employee’s spouse.  Some other readers said that they were told that their spouse needed to be enrolled at least one day before the employee retired.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) clearly lists the requirements for a spouse to continue FEHB coverage after an employee’s or retiree’s death in both the FEHB Handbook and the FEHB FAQS.  The requirements are as follows:

  • The spouse must be enrolled on a self and family plan as of the date of the employee/retiree’s death.
  • The spouse must be entitled to receive a survivor annuity.

That’s it.  OPM lists no further requirements.

As long as the two requirements above are met as of the date of the employee/retiree’s death, it does not matter whether or not the spouse was enrolled at the time of retirement or five years before.

John Grobe’s latest book, The Answer Book on Your Federal Employee Benefits, has just been released by LRP Publications. The book is written in an easy to understand question and answer format and covers all areas of federal benefits from the perspective of an employee at various stages of their career. Order your copy at shoplrp.com.

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

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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.

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