By Reg Jones
Q. I have been receiving disability under FERS (as well as Social Security) for 17 years. I am 61. I understand that, at age 62, my FERS disability benefits will be converted to a retirement annuity as though I had been working the entire time. I have never been married, but I intend to get married in the near future. Will I be able to elect survivor benefits for my spouse? What about coverage under my health insurance (Blue Cross/Blue Shield)? Does it matter whether I get married before my 62nd birthday or not?
A. You can elect a survivor annuity for your wife within two years after your marriage. The reduction in your monthly annuity would be effective no earlier than the first month beginning nine months after the date of your marriage. Besides that reduction, you would have to pay a deposit equal to the difference between the amount of annuity that would have been paid if the survivor annuity had been in effect continuously since you retired, plus accrued interest. The interest rate is 6 percent, compounded annually.
Because I don’t know what your current annuity rate is or what it would be after you are converted to regular retirement, I can’t say whether it would be better to marry before of after that event. Regardless of which route you elect, you would be able to change your Federal Employees Health Benefits enrollment from self-only to self and family from 31 days before you marry through 60 days after.