The OPM made a recent update to their retirement services section pertaining to FERS employee’s death benefits for survivors. While the 2022 lump sum has yet to be announced, below are the updates in bulleted form. To view the entire update, click here.
Basic Employee Death Benefit
If an employee dies with at least 18 months of creditable civilian service under FERS, a survivor annuity may be payable if:
- the surviving spouse was married to the deceased for at least nine months, or
- the employee’s death was accidental, or
- there was a child born of the marriage to the employee.
The spouse may be eligible for the Basic Employee Death Benefit, which is equal to 50% of the employee’s final salary (average salary, if higher), plus $15,000 (increased by Civil Service Retirement System cost-of-living adjustments beginning 12/1/87). The $15,000 has increased to $32,423.56 for deaths after December 1, 2016.
The Basic Employee Death Benefit may be payable to a former spouse (in whole or in part), if a qualifying court order, awarding a benefit, is on file at OPM and the former spouse was married to the deceased for a total of at least nine months and did not remarry before reaching age 55.
Monthly Survivor Benefits
If a FERS employee dies, recurring monthly payments may be made to the surviving spouse if the deceased employee completed at least 10 years of creditable service (18 months of which must be civilian service)
To qualify for the monthly benefit
- The surviving spouse must have been married to the employee for at least nine months
If the death occurred before nine months, a survivor annuity may still be payable if
- the employee’s death was accidental, or
- there was a child born of the marriage.
Recurring monthly payments may be made to the former spouse of a deceased employee under a court order. A former spouse must also meet the nine month marriage requirement. For additional information about court-ordered benefits, refer to the pamphlet, ‘Court-Ordered Benefits for Former Spouses (PDF file) [6.98 MB].’
Unmarried children who are dependent upon the employee may receive monthly benefits until they reach age 18, marry, or die. Monthly survivor annuity payments for a child can continue after age 18, if the child is a full-time student attending a recognized school. Benefits can continue until age 22.
Unmarried disabled dependent children may receive recurring monthly benefits, if the disability occurred before age 18.
We consider a child dependent if he/she:
- was born of the marriage to the retiree;
- is an adopted child who meets all of the following conditions-
- the child lived with the deceased retiree, and
- the deceased filed a petition to adopt the child, and
- the child was adopted by the surviving spouse after the retiree died.
- Is a stepchild or recognized child born out of wedlock who was living with the retiree in a parent-child relationship when the retiree died; or
- Is a recognized child born out of wedlock for whom a judicial determination of support has been obtained.
We consider the child dependent if there is proof that the deceased made regular and substantial contributions to the child’s support.
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 reduced to $0.
Lump Sum Benefits
If no survivor annuity is payable upon the employee/former employee’s death, a lump sum may be payable of the unpaid balance of retirement contributions made by the employee. This lump sum is payable under the order of precedence.
Death of a Former Federal Employee Under FERS
Monthly Survivor Annuity
If a former employee who dies with at least 10 years of creditable service (5 years of which must be creditable civilian service) is survived by a spouse who was married to the deceased at the time of his/her separation from Federal civilian service AND who:
- was married to the deceased for at least nine months, or
- the former employee’s death was accidental, or
- there was a child born of the marriage to the former employee;
the spouse may be eligible for a monthly survivor benefit. The benefit begins on the date the deceased former employee would have been eligible for an unreduced annuity, unless the survivor chooses to have it begin at a lower rate on the day after the employee’s death. The former employee would have been eligible for an unreduced annuity with a minimum of 10 years of creditable service and less than 20 years of service at age 62, with 20 or more years of service at age 60, or with 30 years of service at his/her Minimum Retirement Age (MRA), according to the following schedule;
|If deceased was born in:||His/her MRA is:|
|1947 or prior||55 years|
|1948||55 years, 2 months|
|1949||55 years, 4 months|
|1950||55 years, 6 months|
|1951||55 years, 8 months|
|1952||55 years, 10 months|
|1953 to 1964||56 years|
|1965||56 years, 2 months|
|1966||56 years, 4 months|
|1967||56 years, 6 months|
|1968||56 years, 8 months|
|1969||56 years, 10 months|
|After 1969||57 years|
Instead of a survivor annuity, the eligible spouse can elect to receive a lump sum payment of the contributions remaining to the deceased person’s credit in the retirement fund.
The monthly survivor benefit may be paid in whole or in part to a former spouse if a qualifying court order is on file at OPM and it awards a benefit.
No monthly benefits are payable to children of deceased former FERS employees if the death occurs after leaving Federal employment under FERS and before retirement.
Lump Sum Benefit
If a former employee dies and no survivor annuity is payable, the retirement contributions remaining to the deceased person’s credit in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, plus applicable interest, are payable. This lump sum is payable under the order of precedence.
Death of Employee Covered Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)
Types of Benefits Payable
Basic Employee Death Benefit is Payable
To the Current Spouse if
- The employee who died completed at least 18 months of creditable civilian service
- the employee who died was covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) when he/she died, and
- the current spouse was married to the employee for at least nine months (if the death was accidental or there was a child born of your marriage to the employee, the nine-month requirement does not apply).
To a Former Spouse if
- a qualifying court order is on file at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM),
- the former spouse was married to the deceased for a total period of at least nine months, and
- the former spouse did not remarry before reaching age 55 (unless he/she was married to the deceased for at least 30 years).
Amount of Basic Employee Death Benefit
- 50% of the employee’s final salary (average salary, if higher), plus
- $15,000 increased by Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) cost-of-living adjustments beginning 12/1/87. For deaths on or after 12/1/16, this amount is $32,423.56. As of 2021, that number has raised to $34,991. It will be updated by future CSRS cost-of-living adjustments.
When Benefits Begin
- Widow or Widower
- your survivor annuity begins on the day after the employee’s or retiree’s death. If you are eligible for benefits and we are unable to pay you because a former spouse is entitled, your annuity would begin the day after the former spouse loses entitlement to benefits.
- Former Spouse
- If you are a former spouse who was awarded a survivor annuity based on a court order, your survivor annuity begins to accrue on whichever day is later:
- The day after the employee’s or retiree’s death, or
- The first day of the second month after we receive a certified copy of the court order along with any additional necessary supporting documentation.
- If you are eligible for benefits and we are unable to pay you because another former spouse is entitled, your annuity would begin the day after the former spouse loses entitlement to benefits.
- Your survivor annuity begins to accrue on the day after the employee’s or retiree’s death.
Applying for Benefits
Contact the personnel office of the Federal agency where the employee worked. You should complete the Application for Death Benefits, Standard Form (SF) 3104 (PDF file)