Expert's View

Last week I wrote about the status of legislation that would allow dependent children to be covered by their parent(s) FEHB policy up to age 26. The bottom line is that it will be effective beginning on January 1, 2011 unless further legislation is passed to allow it to become effective earlier than that.

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One thing that struck me after I finished that article is that age 26 differs from the cutoffs for other benefits. For example, take survivor benefits for children. They must be unmarried, under age 18 (age 22 if attending school full-time), and have been dependent on the deceased employee or retiree. They also can be any age if they became disabled under age 18, incapable of self support, and unmarried. The definition of children includes a legitimate child and an adopted child. It also includes a stepchild (if living in a normal parent-child relationship) and a child born out of wedlock (if living in a normal parent-child relationship or if a judicial determination of child support has been made).

Children’s benefits are paid according to a formula where the dollar amounts track inflation. In 2010 the children’s rate where one parent is still alive is $469 per month for each eligible child or $1,409 per month divided by the number of children (if there are four or more). If there is no surviving parent, the rates are higher: $563 per month per child or $1,619 divided by the number of children.

The survivor benefits paid to the children of deceased CSRS employees or retirees aren’t affected by any Social Security benefits payable to the children. However, those paid to the children of CSRS Offset or FERS employees or retirees are. They are reduced by the amount of any Social Security benefit they get which is based on their parent’s CSRS Offset or FERS service.

As a rule, children’s benefits are paid to a child’s parent or, if there is no parent, to the legal guardian. If there isn’t one, OPM will determine who is responsible for the care of the child and pay them. However, there is no bar to a child age 18 receiving the payment directly because he or she is considered to be an adult. However, if the age of adulthood where the individual has legal residence is set at a lower age, the child is considered an adult upon reaching that lower age. Makes you scratch your head when you think about unmarried dependent "children" being eligible for coverage under their parent’s FEHB plan until age 26, doesn’t it?  

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