Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

FERS survivor benefits

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Q. I am revisiting my life insurance needs and want to ensure I understand FERS survivor benefits. I have more than 20 years of 1811 experience, but I won’t turn 50 until next year. If I die before I turn 50, will the survivor annuity be calculated at 10 percent for my first 20 years of 1811 experience or at 17 percent for those years? If I die after I turn 50 but am still employed by the federal government, will the survivor annuity be calculated at 10 percent for my first 20 years of 1811 experience or at 17 percent for those years? If I die before I retire, will my sick leave be added to my years of service for the survivor annuity calculation; if so, will it be 50 percent of my sick leave balance before Jan. 1, 2014, and 100 percent of it after?

A. If you were to die while employed, your time as a special category employee would be calculated using the enhanced FERS formula (1.7 percent) for law enforcement officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers, not to exceed 20 years. Any additional years would be calculated using the standard formula. Since you have at least 10 years of service, your spouse would receive a lump-sum benefit ($31,316.42 in 2013), a lump sum of the higher of 50 percent of your annual basic pay, any Social Security benefit based on your work history and an annuity equal to 50 percent of your basic annuity as of the date you died, but without any age-based reduction. Sick leave would be included in determining your length of service to the extent provided by law on the day you died.

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