How to File for Your Spouse’s Pension

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If your spouse had a monthly pension, you may be eligible for part of it after he or she dies. But figuring out how to file for survivor benefits for a spouse’s pension can get complicated. Here’s how to start the process:

If your spouse had a federal pension

Many federal employees receive a pension through the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees Retirement System. If your spouse was still covered under CSRS at the time of death, you may be eligible for monthly survivor benefits if your spouse worked at least 18 months of creditable service and you were married for at least nine months. If you got married more recently than that, you can still be eligible if your spouse’s death was accidental or if there was a child from the marriage. If your spouse left federal employment before retirement, you will not receive a monthly CSRS survivor pension, but a lump sum of his or her retirement contributions may be available to you.

If your spouse was covered under FERS, there are two types of benefits you may be eligible for:

Basic employee death benefit: The benefit is equal to 50 percent of your spouse’s final salary plus about $32,500. You may be eligible for this if:

  • Your spouse had at least 18 months of creditable civilian service
  • You two had been married at least nine months
  • Your spouse’s death was accidental. If it was not, the benefits may still be paid if you had a child together.

Monthly survivor benefits: You can be eligible for these if:

  • Your spouse completed at least 10 years of creditable service
  • You’d been married at least nine months. If less than nine months, you may still qualify if your spouse’s death was accidental or you have a child together.

Unmarried children of CSRS/FERS participants may also receive benefits if the parent dies. These payments can continue until the child reaches 18, or until age 22 if the child is in school. If the child is disabled and unable to care for him or herself, payments may continue as long as needed.

Steps to take to file for a spouse’s pension

If your spouse was a CSRS/FERS participant, here is how to file for survivor benefits:

Office of Personnel Management
Retirement Operations Center
ATTENTION: Survivor Processing Section
Post Office Box 45
Boyers, Pennsylvania 16017-0045

If your spouse had a private pension

By federal law, private pension plans must have offered benefits to surviving spouses. This right could have been waived before 1985 without your consent, but since then, you generally would have had to sign paperwork specifically giving up your right to the pension. The survivor’s benefit must be at least half the benefit payment you and your spouse received during your joint lives.

If your spouse was already retired and receiving a monthly pension, you start receiving the survivor’s benefit immediately. If your spouse was not yet retired, you can opt to wait until he or she would have reached the correct age under the plan before taking your full benefit, or receive reduced benefits on the date your spouse would have reached early retirement age under the plan’s rules.

To file for benefits, locate your spouse’s pension paperwork, if possible, then contact the employer or organization that provides the pension.

Free help for filing for your spouse’s pension

For free help with a pension problem, you can contact a local office of U.S. Administration on Aging’s Pension Counseling and Information Program or the nonprofit PensionHelp.org.

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