Reg Jones Expert's View

If you work for the federal government, there are some benefits that you may not be aware of. For example, if you are married and die while still on the payroll, your surviving spouse will be entitled to certain benefits. The same is true if you have dependent children who are unmarried, under age 18 (22 if attending school), or disabled before age 18.

CSRS Survivor Annuity

If you are a CSRS employee, your survivor spouse would receive an annuity that is 55 percent of the higher of 1) an annuity based on your high-3 average salary and years of service, including any unused sick leave or 2) a guaranteed minimum, which is the lesser of 40 percent of your high-3 or your regular annuity computed as if you had reached age 60.

The standard formula is used to compute a CSRS annuity. It’s based on your high-3 and years of creditable service. The guaranteed minimum is based on the formula used to compute disability annuities. If you had 22 years of service or were age 60 or older when you died, that benefit will usually equal the earned benefit. For that reason, there are relatively few CSRS employees whose surviving spouse would be eligible for guaranteed minimum benefit.

FERS Survivor Annuity

If you are a FERS employee who had at least 18 months of service of civilian service when you died, your surviving spouse would receive a lump sum payment of $30,792.98 (up from $29,722.95 in 2011), plus a lump sum equal to the greater of 50 percent of your annual base pay or 50 percent of your high-3, plus any Social Security benefit to which your survivor is entitled.

If you had 10 or more years of service, your surviving spouse would also receive a survivor annuity equal to 50 percent of what your basic annuity would have been if the standard FERS formula was used, but without any age-based reduction if you were under age 62 when you died.

Children’s Benefits

In 2012 the children’s rate where one parent is still alive is $487 per month for each eligible child or $1,460 per month divided by the number of children (if there are four or more). In 2011 the rate was $469 per child or $1,409 divided by the number of children.

If there is no surviving parent, the rates are higher. While they were $563 per month per child or $1,691 divided by the number of children in 2011, in 2012 they are $584 and $1,762.

Note: The benefits paid to the children of deceased CSRS Offset or FERS employees or retirees are reduced by the amount of any Social Security benefit they receive based on their parent’s CSRS Offset or FERS service.