FEDZONE Ed Zurndorfer

One of the unfortunate life events that individuals experience at some point of their lives is the death of a loved one – a parent, sibling, child, or a spouse. For relatives of deceased federal annuitants, there will most likely be death benefits paid to several of those relatives. The question is how these relatives obtain these death benefits in the most efficient and timely method. This is the first of three FEDZONE columns presenting guidance for surviving family members of deceased annuitants (federal employees who retired and were receiving either a CSRS annuity or a FERS annuity at the time of their death) and the tasks that have to be performed in order for these surviving family members to receive survivor benefits. This first column discusses federal survivor benefits coming through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Before discussing the actions surviving family members need to perform when an annuitant dies, it is important to review the beneficiary forms all employees should complete and submit. The following beneficiary forms should be completed by all employees and updated, if necessary. With the exception of the TSP beneficiary form, which is filled out online, all of the beneficiary forms can be downloaded from https://www.opm.gov/forms.

  • SF 1152:  Designating of Beneficiary – Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Civilian Employee. This form is used to designate the beneficiary of a deceased employee’s last paycheck and unused annual leave in the event that the employee dies while still in federal service. This form should be submitted to the employee’s Human Resources or Personnel Office.
  • SF 2823: Designation of Beneficiary, Federal Group Life Insurance Program. This form is used to designate the beneficiary of a deceased employee’s FEGLI life insurance and should be submitted to the Office of FEGLI.
  • TSP-3: Designation of Beneficiary of Thrift Savings Plan. This form is used to designate the beneficiary of a deceased TSP participant’s traditional and Roth TSP accounts and should be submitted to the TSP Service Office. Note that a TSP participant fills out and submits Form TSP-3 online.  
  • SF 2808: Designation of Beneficiary, CSRS. This form is used to designate the beneficiary of a deceased CSRS or CSRS-Offset individual’s CSRS contributions upon the later of the death of the CSRS annuitant or CSRS survivor annuitant and should be submitted to OPM.
  • SF 3102: Designation of Beneficiary, FERS. This form is used to designate the beneficiary of a deceased FERS individual’s FERS contributions upon the later of the death of the FERS annuitant or FERS survivor annuitant and should be submitted to OPM.

Upon the death of a federal annuitant or a survivor annuitant, it is important for a widow/widower or a surviving child to report the death to OPM as soon as possible, and to know what happens once the death is reported. The death is reported to OPM by either:

(1) Calling 1-888-767-6738; or (2) Online: https://rsreporting.opm.gov/AnnuitantDeath.

It is important when a beneficiary either calls OPM or reports online the death of an annuitant or survivor annuitant to have the annuitant’s CSA number or the survivor annuitant’s CSF number.

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The following actions will take place upon the reporting of an annuitant’s death:

  • The CSRS annuity or FERS annuity is stopped. If the annuitant’s death is reported early in the month, (the first or second week of the month), it is likely that the survivor annuitant will not see another annuity check deposited into the annuitant’s bank account. If the annuitant’s death is reported later in the month (during the last week of the month), it may be too late for OPM to stop the last annuity payment. In that case, the annuitant’s last annuity check may be deposited in the deceased annuitant’s bank account. That payment should not be spent, as OPM will recall the payment. If there is a prorated amount due for the final amount of the annuitant’s life, it will be paid once the annuitant’s death claim is settled.
  • OPM will put together the packet of forms necessary for the survivor(s) to claim any benefits provided by the annuitant. The forms are typically mailed in three to six weeks after OPM is notified of the annuitant’s death. Once the forms are completed and ready to return to OPM, they should be mailed via a trackable method. 
  • If there is a survivor eligible for a survivor annuity, then the survivor annuitant will be issued a CSF number. This will occur if an individual is named as a survivor annuitant at the time the annuitant filed his or her application for retirement. The CSF number stands for “Civil Service Final”, indicating that the designated survivor annuitant is the final individual who will be issued benefits based on the annuitant’s civil service work record. Note that the CSF number is critical in dealing with OPM. When dealing with OPM, the survivor annuitant will be asked to provide the CSF number. A survivor annuitant should write down and store the number in a secure place and make sure that the executor of his or her estate knows the number and how to locate it.
  • A survivor spouse who was covered under his or her spouse’s Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program health insurance plan and is receiving a survivor annuity (CSRS or FERS) will continue in the FEHB program. Once a survivor’s claim for benefits has been finalized, the surviving spouse will receive a new FEHB program health insurance card issued in his or her name. A surviving spouse should note that while the issuance of this health insurance card may take several months, the surviving spouse is fully insured while the paperwork is processing.

Some Items Survivor Annuitants Need to Beware of When Reporting the Death of an Annuitant

  1. Federal annuities or Social Security benefits issued after the annuitant’s death must be returned to the Treasury Department. The bank where a direct deposit is made should be notified in order that these payments should be returned. If a spouse was already receiving Social Security benefits based on the deceased’s record, then the spousal Social Security benefit will convert to a Social Security survivor (widow/widower) benefit.
  2. A copy of the marriage certificate will be needed with the application to claim the survivor annuity and the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI).
  3. Other evidence needed to apply for survivor benefits may include copies of birth certificates, divorce decrees, or death certificates for deceased children or spouses. These documents, if necessary, will be needed when the application is submitted.
  4. If the annuitant is a veteran, some Department of Veterans (VA) benefits may be available for both the eligible veteran and the surviving spouse.

CSRS and FERS Children Survivor Benefits

  1. Upon the death of a federal annuitant, there is a monthly children survivor benefit available for unmarried children under the age of 18 (until age 19 if a child is still in high school), for children aged 18 to 22 if a full-time college or vocational school student, and for a disabled child of any age if the disability occurred before age 18. There is no cost to the annuitant. Under FERS, the benefit payable to any child of the deceased annuitant is reduced(offset) by the Social Security children survivor benefit based on the Social Security earnings of the deceased annuitant. In many cases, the FERS children survivor benefit is reduced to $0. This benefit is provided by law. An annuitant does not need to elect this survivor benefit nor pay for it. Additional information can be obtained at https://www.opm.gov/retirement-center/quick-guide/In addition to receiving a monthly survivor annuity check, a child will be enrolled in FEHB program and have the monthly FEHB program fee deducted from their annuity check. Additional information can be found at:https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/healthcare/reference-materials/reference/family-members.

Reporting the Death of a Spouse, Designated for a Survivor Annuity Benefit

When a federal employee retires from federal service, he or she is given the opportunity to elect a survivor annuity benefit for his or her spouse. The question becomes: What happens if the spouse predeceases the annuitant? The answers are:

  1. The annuitant can have his or her annuity restored to the full, unreduced rate.
  1. The annuitant should designate a new beneficiary or beneficiaries. The following forms should be completed and submitted: (1) FEGLI Designation of Beneficiary (Form SF 2823); (2) CSRS Designation of Beneficiary (Form SF 2808) or FERS Designation of Beneficiary (Form SF 3102); (3) or TSP Designation of Beneficiary Form TSP-3, to be done online at www.tsp.gov.
  1. If the deceased spouse was covered under the annuitant’s Option C FEGLI Insurance, the annuitant should request FEGLI Form FE-6 DEP (Statement of Claim, Option C-Family Life Insurance) to file for the life insurance benefits.

The annuitant will need to inform OPM of the annuitant spouse’s passing. The reporting of the designated spouse’s passing cannot be done online. The annuitant can call OPM at 888-767-6738 or a letter can be mailed to

Retirement Processing Center
Death Report
P.O. Box 45
Boyars, PA 16017-0045

Edward A. Zurndorfer is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Chartered Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Consultant, Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultant, Certified Employees Benefits Specialist and IRS Enrolled Agent in Silver Spring, MD. Tax planning, Federal employee benefits, retirement and insurance consulting services offered through EZ Accounting and Financial Services, and EZ Federal Benefits Seminars, located at 833 Bromley Street - Suite A, Silver Spring, MD 20902-3019 and telephone number 301-681-1652. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Edward A. Zurndorfer or EZ Accounting and Financial Services. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

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