CSRS and CSRS Offset Survivor Benefits Upon Death of Current Employee

Your widow or widower, former spouse (if any), and children (see below) may qualify for a survivor annuity if your death occurs while you are employed subject to the Civil Service Retirement System provided you completed at least 18 months of civilian service. Same-sex spouses who were married in a state or foreign country recognizing such a marriage (regardless of place of current residence) are eligible for CSRS survivor benefits as well.

Surviving Spouse

To qualify for a survivor annuity, your spouse must have been married to you a total of nine months. That requirement does not apply, though, if there is a child born of the marriage or your death is accidental.

If your surviving spouse qualifies, he or she will receive annually 55 percent of the amount you would have received if you had retired at the time of your death (this is called the “earned annuity”) or the lesser of: 22 percent of your high-3 years’ average salary or 55 percent of the amount your annuity would have been if you had continued working until age 60 at the same high-3.

A spouse’s survivor annuity begins on the day after your death. It may be paid to a person other than your present spouse if a qualifying court order has awarded the entire survivor annuity to a former spouse. It ends at the end of the month preceding the month in which the survivor dies or remarries before age 55; however if the duration of the marriage was 30 or more years, they can re-marry prior to the age of 55 and keep the survivor benefit.

If your surviving spouse remarries before age 55 and the annuity terminates, the survivor annuity may be restored if the remarriage ends by death, annulment, or divorce.

If you are receiving military retired pay and die in service without waiving it, your surviving spouse can still receive credit for your military service in the computation of the CSRS survivor annuity. However, the CSRS survivor annuity will be reduced by the amount of any military survivor benefit you provided. In some cases, it may be to your surviving spouse’s advantage to exclude credit for your military service. Your spouse will be given the information needed to decide whether or not to exclude credit for your military service before the CSRS survivor annuity begins.

For CSRS Offset spouses, if no Social Security survivor benefits are payable, the CSRS survivor benefit is the same as above, however, if Social Security survivor benefit is payable, the survivor benefit payable will be reduced or “offset” by the amount of the survivor’s Social Security benefit attributable to the service the deceased was a federal employee under CSRS Offset.

Former Spouse

A former spouse who was divorced from you on or after May 7, 1985, may receive all or part of the annuity otherwise payable to a surviving spouse if a court order requires it. To be eligible, the former spouse must have been married to you for at least nine months, and must not remarry before age 55.

Lump-Sum Payment

If you die leaving no survivors who qualify for a survivor annuity, your contributions to the Civil Service Retirement Fund, plus any applicable interest, will be paid as a lump-sum death benefit. No interest is payable if you had paid into the retirement fund for less than one year or had more than five years of civilian service. If you leave survivors who qualify for a survivor annuity, no lump-sum death benefit is payable immediately. A lump-sum payment may be made later if, when the survivors’ annuities end, they have received in annuities an amount less than your contributions to the retirement fund, plus any applicable interest. Then the remainder of your contributions would be payable.

If a lump-sum death benefit is payable, it will be paid to the person or persons you named as beneficiaries. If you did not designate a beneficiary, the lump-sum death benefit would be payable in this order:

  • to your widow or widower;
  • to your child or children in equal shares, with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child;
  • to your parents (or parent);
  • to the executor or administrator of your estate; then
  • to your next of kin as determined by the laws of your state.

You do not have to designate a beneficiary to receive the lump-sum death benefit unless you wish the benefit to be paid differently from the order set out above. A designation of beneficiary is for lump-sum death benefit purposes only and does not affect the right of any person who can qualify for a survivor annuity.

A designation of beneficiary must be in writing (on Standard Form 2808) and must be received in the Office of Personnel Management before your death. If you designate a beneficiary, remember to review your designation periodically. If your marital or family status changes, you may want to reconsider the designation you have on file.