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What Constitutes an ‘Eligible Child’ for Survivor Benefits?

What is the definition of an “eligible child” with respect to receiving survivor benefits? The author provides some details of survivor benefits as they relate to children of federal employees.

In a recent article on the link between spousal survivor benefits and the ability for a surviving spouse to continue FEHB coverage after an employee/retiree’s death, I mentioned that survivor benefits for eligible children could allow a spouse to continue FEHB coverage even if the spouse was not, in their own right, entitled to continue coverage. Several readers inquired as to what constituted an eligible child; here’s the definition of eligible child for the purpose of receiving a survivor benefit:

  • Dependent;
  • Unmarried; and
    • Under age 18; or
    • Under age 22 if a full-time student; or
    • Any age if disabled and incapable of self-support as the result of a disability that occurred before age 18.

There are two levels of survivor benefits for children. The amount of the benefits is adjusted each year for inflation. The following figures are for 2016.

If one parent is still living, the child will receive the lesser of:

  • $510 per month per child; or
  • $1532 per month divided by the number of eligible children.

If no parent survives, the child will receive the lesser of:

  • $613 per month per child; or
  • $1839 per month divided by the number of eligible children.

A surviving child would also be likely to be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits. Congress, in its wisdom, has defined eligible child differently for different types of benefits and the Social Security definition of eligible child is:

  • Dependent;
  • Unmarried; and
    • Under age 18; or
    • Under age 19 if a full-time student in high-school or below; or
    • Any age if disabled and incapable of self-support as the result of a disability that occurred before age 22.

Social Security children’s survivor benefits are generally larger than FERS children’s survivor benefits and there is a dollar for dollar offset of Social Security children’s survivor benefits against FERS children’s survivor benefits. This normally eliminates any FERS children’s survivor benefit. However, if the child is still a full-time student at any level of education at the age of 19, they will be able to collect the FERS children’s survivor benefit up to the age of 22 as long as they remain a full-time student.

Some of this article was taken from the FERS coursebook that is utilized by Federal Career Experts in pre-retirement seminars that they present for federal agencies. If your agency has not offered a pre-retirement seminar recently, ask them to contact Federal Career Experts and request a proposal.

Agencies can request to have John Grobe, or another of Federal Career Experts' qualified instructors, deliver a retirement or transition seminar to their employees. FCE instructors are not financial advisers and will not sell or recommend financial products to class participants. Agency Benefits Officers can contact John Grobe at [email protected] to discuss schedules and costs.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a firm that provides pre-retirement training and seminars to a wide variety of federal agencies. FCE’s instructors are all retired federal retirement specialists who educate class participants on the ins and outs of federal retirement and benefits; there is never an attempt to influence participants to invest a certain way, or to purchase any financial products. John and FCE specialize in retirement for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers.