Government/Agency Death Benefits Payable to Your Survivors

Certain death benefits are payable to your surviving spouse, or to your next of kin, under the federal order of precedence: stated beneficiary, widow/widower, child, parent, and executor; in that order.

FERS Basic Employee Death Benefit (BEDB): OPM will pay a lump-sum benefit to an eligible spouse upon the death of an employee who had completed at least 18 months of creditable service. For deaths after 12/1/2013, the fixed amount of the FERS BEDB was $31,786.21 (indexed for inflation). The surviving spouse will receive: 1) one-half of the deceased’s annual pay or high-3, whichever is higher, 2) a check for your accrued annual leave, and 3) the deceased’s final paycheck.

If the deceased employee had ten years of creditable service under FERS, OPM will pay a monthly annuity to an eligible surviving spouse upon the death of the employee. The annuity is calculated as 50% of the deceased employee’s calculated accrued annuity. The surviving spouse will receive annual COLAs. For example, if the deceased had ten years of service and a High-3 salary of $100,000, the annuity is calculated at (10 x 1.7%) x $100,000 = $17,000 x 50% = $8,500 annually or $708 monthly to the surviving spouse. To learn more about FERS employee death benefits, visit OPM Employee Death Benefits – FERS. Also see the earlier section for more details on the annuity portion.

Notice that the word “spouse” is in italics throughout the BEDB section. This is because the BEDB is payable only to a surviving spouse. There is no annuity benefit payable to a parent of the deceased or to the children of the deceased – only a surviving spouse.

Separate from the BEDB, there may be an amount payable to dependent children of the deceased, but that amount is generally reduced to zero by applicable Social Security benefits paid or payable to the children. Until the surviving child is 16, the surviving spouse will receive an amount from Social Security to care for the child. From age 16 to age 18, Social Security pays the survivor benefit to the child. At age 18, the Social Security benefit payable to the child stops. At that point, if the surviving child is in school, the FERS survivor benefit kicks back in from age 18 to age 22.

This amount can typically range from $5,000 to $6,000 per year, From the OPM website: If the deceased retired under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or was an employee covered under FERS at the time of death, the combined benefit of all the children is reduced by the total amount of child’s 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.

Thrift Savings Plan: Should death occur before the account balance has been distributed, the account balance will be paid out according to the Designation of Beneficiary Form TSP-3 on file with the TSP. If no beneficiary form is on-file, the federal order of precedence will be followed. Make sure that the account balance is transferred into an IRA (new Beneficiary IRA or surviving spouse’s IRA) and not paid out as a distribution. If it is paid out as a distribution, the taxes due are immense and can be avoided by rolling the account balance into an IRA. The Tobacco Bill, passed in June 2009, allows surviving spouses to leave their deceased spouse’s account at the TSP. Generally speaking, the best decision for the surviving spouse is to leave the money invested in the TSP for as long as possible. Remember, no other investment option has the low expense ratio that the TSP enjoys. These changes have been implemented and the new TSP Death Benefit booklet is at TSP Death Benefit Booklet. To report a participant’s death, go to TSP Death Notification Page.

An Employee Benevolent Fund: Should your agency have one, they normally provide a death benefit.

Should you be killed on duty, certain death benefits are payable to your surviving spouse, or to your next of kin, under the federal order of precedence:

Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB): The PSOB is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and pays a benefit when an agent loses their life in the line of duty and is survived by a spouse, child or parent. The current benefit is $333,604.68 for deaths occurring after 10/1/2013 and is adjusted annually for inflation. To learn more about the PSOB, visit https://www.psob.gov/index.html.

Public Safety Officers’ Educational Assistance Program (PSOEA): The PSOEA is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and provides educational assistance to eligible survivors of public safety officers who die or are totally disabled as a result of an adversarial action or traumatic injury in the line of duty. This benefit includes allowances for room, board, tuition, books and supplies. To learn more about the PSOEA, visit PSOEA Application Form.

Special Agent Samuel Hicks Families of Fallen Heroes Act: Pays the transportation and moving expenses attributable to a change of residence within the United States of the immediate family of a deceased federal law-enforcement officer who dies as a result of personal injury sustained in the performance of duties, as well as expenses of preparing and transporting the remains of the deceased to where the family will reside.

FLEOA Foundation: Once notified of a Line of Duty death, the FLEOA Foundation will provide an immediate One Time death benefit based upon need.