Domestic Partner, Ex-Spouse Benefits

Monday - 12/15/2008, 4:00am EST

Did you know that you don't have to be married to someone to leave them a civil service survivor annuity?

Many people, including me, didn't know that.

But it turns out you can leave almost anyone a survivor annuity - a federally-guaranteed lifetime benefit indexed to inflation - under certain circumstances. This includes a domestic partner of either gender, an ex-wife, close relative or a dependent child.

To qualify for a survivor benefit the fed must designate someone who has an "insurable interest" in their benefit, and the fed must take a survivor benefit reduction in or her annuity. An insurable interest, among other things, means the individual you designate must depend upon you in whole or part for support.

How do we know this?

The issue of who-can-get-what came up on our Your Turn radio show (December 11, 2008) . A reader/listener put the question to our guest, David Snell. He's director of retirement benefits for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees.

The question came from G.W., who said he had been told by a gay friend that it was possible for him to leave a survivor annuity to his partner. We passed it on to Snell, who said:

Actually, retiring Federal employees can elect to provide a survivor annuity to any person having an insurable interest in the continuing life of that employee. There are presumed insurable interests such as a current or former spouses, adopted or blood close relatives or fiancÚs.

When the insurable interest is not presumed (as in the case of a domestic partner ) then the employee must submit affidavits that show the relationship between the employee and the insurable interest beneficiary as well as the extent to which the named beneficiary is financially dependent on the employee. The employee must also show evidence that he or she is in good health.

The reduction in the employee's annuity is computed differently than in other survivor reductions, part of which is based on the difference in ages between the employee and the beneficiary. Also, the amount of the survivor annuity is 55% of the annuity remaining after the reduction. In such a case, the employee pays more to provide a benefit and the beneficiary will receive less than in other survivor elections. The election to provide survivor benefits to an insurable interest must be made at the time of retirement. David B. Snell, www.narfe.org

For more tips, including an explanation of what feds and retirees can and should do if they want to change health plans between now and January 30, check out our Your Turn archives on our web page.

December 26th Holiday

It's official. Friday December 26th will be a bonus holiday for most nonemergency federal workers. President Bush issued the executive order Friday. The day-after-Christmas holiday has become a tradition, but it isn't an entitlement, and it isn't official until the qualifying EO is issued. Feds got the bonus holiday in 1952, 1958, 1969, 1975, 1980, 1997 and in 2003.

If the past is precedent, U.S. Postal Service employees won't get the day off, unless they take annual leave. To see how the holiday will work, click here, and for more on the history of the "holiday", click here.

Inauguration Holiday (for some)

It's official. Most D.C. based feds (who work inside the Beltway) will get Jan. 20th, Inauguration Day, off. That's in addition to the governmentwide Martin Luther King Jr holiday that will be celebrated the day before. For more on which DC area feds will get a 4-day weekend, click here.

Outgoing People

After a combined 62 years with Uncle Sam (42 for him, 20 for her), Ken and Joy Nieves are heading into retirement. They are both IT specialists with the IRS in the DC area. Ken says that when he started "high tech" was a little different.

"...we had card readers to load programs into the computers and we could only process one program at a time" he says, "I was a programmer on the 1040 programs (individual income tax forms) and we were able to process all income taxes on time and with few mistakes."

Nearly Useless Factoid

With 2 million associates worldwide, including 1.4 million in the United States, Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the U.S.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

Tags: P&B, MC