Expert's View

Recent articles in this space have asked you to consider if you are ready to retire and, if you are, when you should retire. We also gave some tips on how to maximize your retirement annuity. Now let’s look at three other benefits of federal employment that can follow you into retirement and may influence your decision.

Federal Employees Health Benefits
When you retire you can continue your coverage under the FEHB program if you have been enrolled in it continuously for the five years immediately preceding retirement or from your first opportunity to enroll. This doesn’t mean that you have to be enrolled in a specific plan for that period of time. In fact, you could have changed plans every year and still meet the five year (or first opportunity) requirement. The same is true if you were enrolled in the program, left government, and immediately reenrolled when you returned.


If you are enrolled in the FEHB program and die either before or after you retire, anyone who has been covered under your enrollment can continue that coverage.

Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance
The same five-year rule applies to FEGLI coverage. Who will receive the benefit depends on who you designated to receive it. You first made that decision when you entered government service. You need to check now and find out if that designation is still correct. All too often you’ll discover that you’ve named someone who is either no longer living or is definitely not the one you want to receive that benefit, for example, a close friend who has long since been replaced by a spouse.

To avoid that problem, go to your servicing personnel office and check your Official Personnel File (OPF). That way you can make sure that whoever you designated is still the one you want to receive the benefit in the event of your death. To change a previous FEGLI designation, you’ll need to fill out a Standard Form 1823.

If you die without having filled out a designation of beneficiary form, any benefits usually will be distributed according to what’s called the standard order of precedence: your spouse; your child or children in equal shares, with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child; your parents in equal shares or the entire amount to the surviving parent; the duly appointed executor or administrator of you estate; and, finally, your next of kin under the laws of the place you were living at the time of your death. Of course, if you are divorced, what happens to those benefits may have been settled by a court order – or not. It’s up to you to find out.

Thrift Savings Plan
When you die, any money you have in your TSP account will be paid out in the standard order of precedence spelled out above, unless you filed a valid TSP-3, Beneficiary Election form. If you did, your designation(s) would be honored. If your survivor spouse is the beneficiary, he or she can keep the account open and enjoy the same management and withdrawal rights that you did. On the other hand, any other beneficiaries will have to close out the account. They can do that by either taking a withdrawal or transfer the money to an individual retirement account (IRA) or other qualifying retirement savings plan.

See also, Considering Dropping FEHB? Read this first.