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Survivors

Survivors

When a Federal employee dies, monthly or lump sum benefits may be payable to survivors. Learn about these Survivor benefits here.

Deceased Employees Covered Under CSRS

Monthly Survivor Benefits

Children

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.

If Death Occurs After Leaving Federal Employment Under CSRS and Before Retirement

Under these circumstances, there are no recurring monthly benefits payable under CSRS.

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.

Deceased Employees Covered Under FERS

Basic Employee Death Benefit

Children

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.

If Death Occurs After Leaving Federal Employment Under FERS and Before Retirement

Monthly Survivor Annuity

Children

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 Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)

Types of Benefits Payable:

Monthly Survivor Annuity is Payable

To a Child if:

    • the employee completed at least 18 months of creditable civilian service, and
      the child is an-

      • unmarried dependent child under age 18, and/or
      • unmarried dependent child from age 18 to age 22, if attending an accredited educational institution full-time, and/or
      • unmarried, disabled dependent child if the disability occurred before age 18.

Lump Sum Benefit is Payable

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.

Payees for Lump Sum Benefits-

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

  • to the designated beneficiary;
  • if there is no such beneficiary, to the widow or widower;
  • if none of the above, to the child or children, with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child;
  • if none of the above, to the parents in equal shares or the entire amount to a surviving parent;
  • if none of the above, to the executor or administrator of the estate; or
  • if none of the above, to the next of kin as determined under the laws of the State where the retiree lived.

When Benefits Begin

  • Child
    • 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) 2800 (PDF file) [667.22 KB] (CSRS) or SF 3104 (PDF file) [757.62 KB] (FERS) and attach any other forms and/or evidence as the application or circumstances require. Attach a copy of the employee’s death certificate and a copy of the certificate of the marriage to the widow or widower. Give the application to the personnel office. A widow or widower who is claiming benefits for himself/herself and on behalf of children should file one application.

Death of Employee Covered Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)

Types of Benefits Payable:

Basic Employee Death Benefit is Payable

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 12/1/07, this amount is $28,093.53. It will be updated by future CSRS cost-of-living adjustments.

Monthly Survivor Benefit is Payable

To a Child if:

  • the employee completed at least 18 months of creditable civilian service, and
  • the child is an
    • unmarried dependent child under age 18, and/or
    • unmarried dependent child from age 18 to age 22, if attending an accredited educational institution full-time, and/or
    • unmarried, disabled dependent child if the disability (certified as such by the Social Security Administration) 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 based on the total earnings of the deceased. In many cases, the FERS children’s benefit is reduced to $0.

Lump Sum Benefit is Payable

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.

Payees for Lump Sum Benefits

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

  • to the designated beneficiary;
  • if there is no such beneficiary, to the widow or widower;
  • if none of the above, to the child or children, with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child;
  • if none of the above, to the parents in equal shares or the entire amount to a surviving parent;
  • if none of the above, to the executor or administrator of the estate; or
  • if none of the above, to the next of kin as determined under the laws of the State where the retiree lived.

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.
  • Child
    • 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) [757.62 KB] and attach any other forms and/or evidence as the application or circumstances require. Attach a copy of the employee’s death certificate and a copy of the certificate of the marriage to the widow or widower. Give the application to the personnel office. If you are the surviving spouse or former spouse, you and deceased person’s employing agency should also complete Form (SF) 3104B (PDF file) [561.04 KB] Standard Documentation and Elections in Support of Application for Death Benefits when Deceased was an Employee at the Time of Death.

A widow or widower who is claiming benefits for himself/herself and on behalf of children should file one application.

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Full-Time Students

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.

To be considered a full-time student, high schools, trade schools, and vocational schools generally require 25 or more actual clock hours of classroom attendance each week. Colleges and universities generally require enrollment for a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester to be considered full-time. There are no payments available for part-time school attendance.

A recognized school is one that has a faculty and requires study to be done at the school. High schools must be licensed by the state. All other schools must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency.

We do not recognize correspondence schools, elementary schools, home schools, Job Corps, U.S. military service academies such as the U.S. Naval Academy, or any training programs where the trainee receives pay primarily as an employee.

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