FERS Survivor Benefits

FERS survivor benefits upon death of employee

Basic Death Benefit

The surviving spouse of an employee who had at least 18 months of creditable civilian service may be eligible for a basic employee death benefit, so long as the spouse:

  • was married to the deceased for an aggregate of at least nine months (the nine month requirement does not apply if the death was accidental); or
  • was the parent of a child born of the marriage (including one born posthumously, or out of wedlock if the parties later married).

The basic death benefit is equal to 50 percent of the employee’s final salary (or average salary, if higher) plus a lump sum of about $34,000, inflation-indexed annually.

This benefit may be payable to a former spouse (in whole or in part) if a qualifying court order is on file at OPM and the former spouse was married to the deceased for a total period of at least nine months and did not remarry before reaching age 55.

Survivor Annuity

In addition to the basic death benefit, the spouse of an employee who dies with at least 10 years of creditable service (18 months of which must be civilian service) is also eligible for a monthly benefit if the spouse:

  • was married to the deceased for a total period of at least nine months (the nine month requirement does not apply if the death was accidental); or
  • was the parent of a child born of the marriage (including one born posthumously, or out of wedlock if the parties later married).

The benefit is equal to 50 percent of the unreduced annuity the employee would have been entitled to had the employee been of retirement age, without reduction for age. It is payable upon the death of the employee and is adjusted for inflation.

This benefit may be paid in whole or in part to a former spouse if a qualifying court order is on file at OPM.

The benefit is payable to the child of an employee with at least 18 months of creditable civilian service if the child is:

  • an unmarried dependent up to age 18;
  • an unmarried dependent from age 18 to age 22 if attending an accredited educational institution full-time; or
  • an unmarried, disabled dependent (certified as such by the Social Security Administration) if the disability occurred before age 18.

The combined benefit of all the children is reduced by the total amount of child’s insurance benefits that are payable (or would, upon proper application, be payable) under Title II of the Social Security Act for the same month to all children of the deceased (including those of a former marriage who may not be living with the current spouse) based on the total earnings of the deceased. In many cases, the FERS children’s benefit is eliminated.

Lump-Sum Benefit

If an employee dies and no survivor annuity is payable based on his/her death, the retirement contributions remaining to the deceased person’s credit in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, plus applicable interest, are payable.

If a lump-sum benefit is payable, it is paid to the first person eligible under the following order of precedence:

  • beneficiary designated by the deceased in writing which is signed and witnessed and is received at his/her employing agency (or OPM if the deceased was a retiree or a separated employee) prior to death;
  • spouse of the deceased;
  • children of the deceased (or descendants of deceased children);
  • parents of the deceased;
  • executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate; then
  • next of kin of the deceased according to the laws in the deceased person’s state of domicile.
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