Children’s Benefits – Annuities

On April 26 and May 3 I wrote about the survivor benefits provided to the spouses of deceased federal employees and retirees. In this series I want to write about the benefits that the children of deceased federal employees and retirees are entitled to.

Among the most important of these benefits is a survivor annuity. It’s payable to your child or children even if you didn’t elect a survivor annuity for your spouse. As a rule, your child must be unmarried, dependent, and under 18 years of age. This includes:

• an adopted child,

• a stepchild if the stepchild lived with you in a regular parent-child relationship,

• a recognized natural child, and

• a child who lived with and for whom a petition for adoption was filed by you and who is adopted by your surviving spouse after your death.

The age 18 limit is waved if your child is

• between age 18 and 22 years of age, unmarried, dependent on you, and a student regularly pursuing a full-time course of study or training or

• incapable of self-support because of a mental or physical disability incurred before age 18, as long as he or she remains both incapable of self-support and unmarried (more on this next week).

Although the rules governing the annuity payments to children are the same for deceased CSRS and FERS employees and retirees, if you were a CSRS-Offset or FERS employee or retiree, your child’s annuity payments will be reduced by the amount of any Social Security benefit payable based of your Social Security-covered federal service.

A child’s annuity benefit is based on a formula that is increased whenever there is a retiree cost-of-living adjustment. In 2017, if your child has a living parent who was your current or former spouse at your death, the benefit is the lesser of $512 per month per child or $1,537 per month divided by the number of eligible children. If your child has no living parent who was married to you, the benefit is the lesser of $614 per month per child or $1,844 per month divided by the number of eligible children.

If a parent you were married to dies before your child’s benefit ends, the annuity is increased from the former rate to the latter. Benefits may also be adjusted for other reasons. For example, if they are being paid to more than three children and the annuity for one of them ends for any reason (such as passing an age cutoff), the annuities of the remaining children are increased prospectively.

The survivor annuity to each qualified child begins the day after your death and ends on the last day of the month before the one in which the child loses eligibility under the rules described above (or dies, if sooner).