Reg Jones Expert's View

If you work for the federal government, 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.


Survivor Annuity

If you were employed under CSRS, your survivor spouse will 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 CSRS formula is used to compute an annuity based on your high-3 and years of service. The guaranteed minimum is based on the formula used to compute disability annuities. FYI, that benefit will usually equal the earned benefit if you had 22 years of service or were age 60 or older when you died. If that’s the case, the survivor annuity will be computed using the standard formula.

If you had at least 18 months of service of civilian service under FERS, your surviving spouse would receive a lump sum payment of $29,722.95 (up from $28,093.53 in 2008) 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 would be 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.

Note: There is a special death benefit for public safety officers payable to the survivors of officers who die as the direct and proximate result of a personal, traumatic injury involving external force and sustained in the line of duty. In 2009 it is $315,746, up from $303,064 in 2008.


Children’s Benefits

In 2009 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). In 2008 the rate was $444 per child or $1,332 divided by the number of children.

If there is no surviving parent, the rates are higher. While they were $532 per month per child or $1,598 divided by the number of children in 2008, in 2009 they are $563 and $1,619.

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.