Reg Jones Expert's View

Certain life events either enable or require you to make changes in your federal benefits to your best advantage—immediately, in the future or both. I’m talking about such things as marriage, the birth of a child, divorce or death. Let’s start this series by focusing on marriage.
Note: Except for the Thrift Savings Plan form as mentioned below, the forms referenced are available to active employees through their personnel offices or at; retirees should get them from that site.

Survivor annuity
When you get married, you’ll need to notify your personnel office (or OPM if you are a retiree). While the law requires that you provide a survivor annuity for your spouse, that notification will assure that there won’t be any complications if the worst happens. Note: If you filled out a Standard Form 2808 (CSRS) or 3102 (FERS) when you were first hired and designated one or more people you wanted to receive any benefits in the event of your death, you may want to revise those designations as a result of your marriage.

Health insurance
If you weren’t enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program, you can do so upon marriage, even outside an open season.

If you were already enrolled, you can change your coverage. For example, if you were single, you can change from self only to self plus one. If you were enrolled in self plus one to cover a dependent child, you can change to self and family. On the other hand, if you were already enrolled in self and family to cover your eligible children, all you have to do is add your new spouse.

If you are enrolled in the self and family option, just contact your health plan and let them know that you have a new family member. In all other cases, you’ll have to submit your enrollment change from 31 days before the marriage to 60 days after. Use Standard Form 2809, Health Benefits Election Form.

Note: No matter which situation you are in, when you get married, you’ll also have the option of changing from one plan or option to another.

Life insurance
If you enrolled in the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program (FEGLI) when you were first hired, you filled out a designation of beneficiary form indicating who you wanted to get the proceeds of that policy if you died. When you get married, you probably will want to change that designation. Whether you are an employee or a retiree, you can do that by filling out Standard Form 2823.

Federal Dental and Vision Insurance Program
On marriage, a Federal Dental and Vision Insurance Program enrollee may increase coverage from self-only to self plus one or to self and family, or from self plus one to self and family, although initial enrollment is not allowed, nor is cancellation or changing from one plan to another. The change must be made from 31 days before to 60 days after the marriage. Enrollment changes are made at

Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program
A new spouse of an individual eligible for Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program becomes eligible to apply for coverage, regardless of that person’s enrollment status. If your spouse applies within 60 days of the marriage, only a shortened underwriting form is used. Afterward, full underwriting applies. A child of your spouse who is age 18 or older also becomes eligible but always is subject to full underwriting. Enrollment is through

Flexible Spending Accounts
Marriage is a qualifying status event allowing changes in allotments to flexible spending accounts, from 31 days before to 60 days after the marriage. Your requested change must be consistent with the event and you cannot enroll or increase your election(s) after October 1; after that date, you would have to wait until the fall open season, and elections would be effective with the following calendar year. These changes can be made through

Thrift Savings Plan
If you previously filed a TSP designation of beneficiary form (TSP-3) naming someone other than your now-spouse as beneficiary, you likely will want to change that by filing a new form; the marriage does not override that designation. The form is available through personnel offices, the TSP, P.O. Box 385021, Birmingham, AL, 35238, phone (877) 968-3778, or at If you never did, or do, file one of those forms, your account will be distributed automatically on your death according to an order of precedence required by law, which starts with a surviving spouse.