Federal Employee Death Prior to 10 Years Service and Survivor Annuities

In a Federal Civil Service divorce, will for Former Spouse who had been awarded a Former Spouse Survivor Annuity always collect on that annuity after the death of the employee?  Not always.

Federal law provides that if the employee completed at least 18 months service, but LESS THAN 10 YEARS SERVICE at time of death, then the former spouse only is entitled to the Basic Employee Death BenefitSee 5 CFR 839.921(b)(1).  This remains true even if a divorce decree and court order accepted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) had ordered a Former Spouse Survivor Annuity. See id.

The Basic Employee Death Benefit is as follows (See 5 CFR 843.309):

  1. Fifty percent of the final annual rate of basic pay of the employee; plus,
  2. Fifteen thousand dollars (adjusted annually by cost-of-living adjustments for retirees since 12/01/1987; currently in 2017 worth slightly more than $32,423).  See “Amount of Basic Death Benefit(last accessed 11/26/17).

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC.  The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world.  The firm specializes in Federal Civil Service and Military Divorce matters.  The firms also provides Wills and Estates and Probate services.