Reg Jones Expert's View

Did you know that the children of deceased federal employees and retirees are entitled to a number of benefits? Well, they are. Among the most important of these is a survivor annuity, which is payable even if you didn’t elect a survivor annuity when you retired.

To be eligible, your child must be an unmarried dependent under 18 years of age. The term dependent includes 1) an adopted child, 2) a stepchild (but only if the stepchild lived with you in a regular parent-child relationship), 3) a recognized natural child, and 4) 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 waived for an unmarried dependent child between age 18 and 22 years of age who is a student regularly pursuing a full-time course of study or training.

It’s also waived for a dependent child who is incapable of self-support because of a mental or physical disability incurred before age 18 and continues as long as he or she remains both incapable of self-support and unmarried. (We’ll look at the details of that next week.)

The rules governing the annuity payments to children are the same for CSRS and FERS employees and retirees. However, the annuity payments to a child of a CSRS-Offset or FERS employee/retiree will be reduced by the amount of the Social Security benefit payable based on the employee/retiree’s Social Security-covered federal service.

The annuity payable is increased whenever there is a retiree cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA). In 2019, when a child has a living parent who was a current or former spouse of the deceased employee/retiree, the annuity benefit payable is the lesser of $537 per month per child or $1,611 per month divided by the number of eligible children.

If the child has no living parent who was married to the deceased employee/retiree, the benefit payable is the lesser of $644 per month per child or $1,932 per month divided by the number of eligible children.

If there are one, two, or three children eligible for an annuity, the rate per child will be $537 or $643 respectively. If there are four or more children, the rate per child goes down proportionately within the total of $1,611 or $1,932 respectively.

If a parent who was married to the employee/retiree dies before a child’s benefit ends, the annuity is increased from the lower to the higher rate.

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 in terminated (for example, by aging out of eligibility), the annuities of the remaining children are increased prospectively. On the other hand, if a child is born to the employee/retiree after his death, individual rates may be decreased.

The survivor annuity to each qualified child begins the day after the employee/retiree’s death and ends on the last day of the month before the one in which the child no longer meets an eligibility standard as described above.

Learn more about Annuities for Survivors of Federal Retirees at ask.FEDweek.com