Hyattsville, MD asked in Family Law, Employment Law, Public Benefits and Social Security for Maryland

Q: My husband died 5years ago he worked for opm when he retired he did not select the spouce benefit for me what can I do .

1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: When a married federal employee retires and claims their benefits, they have to choose whether to take a full or partial survivor benefit- or waive the survivor annuity altogether. To take a reduced benefit, or waive it, their spouse (you) must consent by signing a waiver that is included in the application for retirement. Once that election is finalized, which happens 30 days after the first official payment from FERS or CSRS is issued, the decision cannot be changed. (FERS stands for Federal Employee Retirement System, which replaced CSRS for older federal employees, which stands for Civil Service Retirement System.) Most federal employees retiring nowadays have a FERS pension. You would have had to sign the document to waive the survivor benefit. If you do not remember signing it, you need to request proof that you did, and confirm it is your signature. 5 years after your husband's death and termination of his pension is a long time to wait to raise this issue, and it may now be too late to do so. You would need a federal emloyment law attorney to review this issue.

I assume he had a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) in addition to his FERS pension, which is standard. You should be the named beneficiary on his TSP, which is readily available cash or investment assets within the TSP account that can be converted to cash, and withdrawn as needed. Income taxes may be owed on such withdrawals. Separately, you may have Social Security benefits available to you, either yours or, if your husband also worked for non-federal employers during his work career, you may claim your husband's SSA benefits if they are higher than yours.

I assume you were married and not divorced at the time your spouse retired, and that you remained married until his death. If you were divorced during any of these periods, then typically there would be a retirement/pension order respecting your share of his TSP and FERS pension. That court order would govern your rights.

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