TN 16 (11-92)
RS 01702.211 Survivor Annuities - Wage Credits May Be Precluded
Survivor annuities are payable to survivors of:
employees who die while employed in a job covered under CSRS; and
retired employees (annuitants) who have elected a reduced annuity to provide for a survivor benefit. Survivor benefits are payable to a widow, widower, children (requirements similar to Social Security) and, if the deceased was retired, to a person with an insurable interest.
Survivor annuitants can in certain cases elect an irrevocable waiver of OPM benefits. (See RS 01702.217 - RS 01702.223 for a complete explanation.)
If a civil service employee (not an annuitant) dies on the last day of a month, pre-1957 MS wages credits may be granted for survivor insured status and/or benefit amount purposes, at least for the month of death. This is because the first day of entitlement to OPM survivor benefits can be no earlier than the day after the day of death. For subsequent months, normal pre-1957 MS development procedures with OPM apply.
2. Surviving Children of Employee
Survivor annuities to children of employees (not annuitants) are computed either at percentage rates or a flat amount fixed by law. That computation does not involve use of pre-1957 MS except in cases when it is used to meet the 5-year eligibility requirement if the employee died prior to 10/20/69, or to meet the 18-month eligibility requirement if the employee died after 10/19/69. When pre-1957 MS has been used in this fashion, it may not be used for SS purpose.
Since current claims for SS children's survivor benefits normally would be based on a death occurring after 10/19/69, if we know that the deceased had at least 18 months of actual civilian service, then we also know that any pre-1957 MS will not be used for the 18-month eligibility purposes, especially since we are concerned only with pre-1957 MS.
Under these circumstances, pre-1957 MS wage credits may be granted without development to OPM, but only if there is no surviving spouse also entitled to OPM survivor benefits. This is because the surviving spouse annuity may be based on the pre-1957 MS of the deceased which would bar our wage credits for the survivor PIA, even if the surviving spouse did not apply for SS benefits.
3. Surviving Children of Annuitant
Survivor annuities to children of retired annuitants are computed exactly as they are for surviving children of deceased employees (2. above). An important distinction is that although pre-1957 MS normally will not be used in determining the children's benefit, it may have been used for either eligibility or benefit computation purposes in determining the retired employee's annuity. If pre-1957 MS was so used, that determination bars SS wage credits. This is so even though the annuity ended upon death and the child never received a benefit from OPM. If the deceased annuitant's benefit did not involve any pre-1957 MS credit, SS may grant wage credits to determine insured status or the benefit amount on the survivor claim.
Do not be concerned with the OPM benefit of a surviving spouse of a deceased annuitant who retired on or after 10/20/69, if the survivor benefit option was elected by an annuitant; the surviving spouse benefit will have the same basis (in regard to OPM use of pre-1957 MS) as the annuitant's benefit (an SSA-655-U2 may be required.) If the annuitant retired before 10/20/69, see RS 01702.209.
4. Surviving Spouse of Employee or Annuitant
a. Death or Retirement Prior to 10/20/69
The surviving spouse of an employee who died or was retired from the Federal service prior to 10/20/69, will be eligible (at any age and with no child-in-care requirement) for survivor benefits if the employee had at least 5 years of service, or if the annuitant elected a survivor benefit annuity. Pre-1957 MS usually will not be used to establish the 5 year eligibility requirement.
An employee's surviving spouse's annuity is computed at 55 percent of the earned annuity rate computed under a longevity formula based upon the employee's years of service.
An annuitant's surviving spouse's benefit is computed in the same way, even if the annuitant's benefit was not based on pre-1957 MS, such as in a disability annuity. The survivor annuity will credit any pre-1957 MS which may be credited under the CSRA, thus precluding credit of the pre-1957 MS for SS purposes.
b. Death or Retirement After 10/19/69
The widow or widower of a Federal employee who dies on or after 10/20/69, is eligible for a survivor's annuity if the employee had at least 18 months of Federal civilian service. The surviving spouse may be awarded a survivor's annuity computed at 55 percent of the earned annuity that would have been payable to the employee based upon the years of Federal civilian employment and pre-1957 MS, without reduction for being under age 55. Thus, SS wage credits are precluded. The surviving spouse is guaranteed, however, that the amount of the award will be at least 55 percent of the smaller of:
forty percent of the employee's average “high-3” pay, or
the amount of annuity to which the employee could have become entitled had he or she retired at age 60.
Awards computed under these two formulas are referred to as guaranteed minimum annuities. The latter formula will credit directly any pre-1957 MS that is creditable under the CSRS to compute the amount of the award. The forty percent formula never uses pre-1957 MS to establish eligibility or to compute the amount of survivor annuity.
Pre-1957 MS is only creditable for SS purposes whenever OPM awards a survivor annuity computed under the 40 percent formula. The guaranteed minimum will not be used if the earned annuity produces a higher benefit. Since service cannot be projected past age 60, the guaranteed minimum is not operative when an employee dies upon or after reaching age 60.
Therefore, SSA-655-U2 development is required when the employee dies prior to age 60, unless the survivor states that pre-1957 MS was definitely credited, which bars SSA pre-1957 MS credit. An SSA-655-U2 is not required when the employee dies at age 60 or older, since the survivor benefit will be based on the regular length of service earned annuity which will include pre-1957 MS credit.
The surviving spouse receives 55 percent of the amount the annuitant chose as a base for the survivor election. Since the surviving spouse's benefit flows directly from the age, length of service, or disability annuity of the deceased annuitant, the use or non-use of pre-1957 MS in the annuity determines if SS may grant wage credits.
SSA-655-U2 development will be required in all cases, unless the survivor knows that the deceased annuitant was receiving a retirement annuity based on length of service, or a disability annuity that began after age 60, or had more than 21 years and 11 months of service.
If the annuitant, at retirement, did not provide for a survivor benefit, and OPM cannot pay a surviving spouse a benefit upon termination of the annuity at death, OPM use of pre-1957 MS for the deceased's annuity prior to death bars SS pre-1957 MS wage credits for survivor entitlement or benefit computation purposes.