A recent federal appeals court decision underscored the strict manner in which eligibility for retirement survivor benefits are administered, saying it could find no authority in law for waiving the requirements.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in decision No. 2009-3300 was considering the appeal from a widow of a federal employee who died accidentally just 13 days short of the 10 years of creditable federal civilian service required to provide for a survivor annuity based on death in service. OPM had denied the claim as had the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Before the court, the widow asked that his overtime hours or unused sick and/or annual leave be counted as time actually worked in order to produce the necessary time. In lieu of that, she argued that the court order that the 10-year requirement be waived given the situation.

However, the court found that the law allows crediting only for a normal working schedule and does not allow for providing an annuity on “equitable grounds.” The court said that while it sympathized with her “unfortunate circumstances, we are compelled to affirm” the denial of a benefit.