Retired federal workers who failed to provide survivor benefits for their spouses would have a second chance under legislation introduced yesterday by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

Wolf's bill, endorsed by the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, would make it possible for retirees to elect to take reduced pensions so they could provide lifetime survivor benefits -- equal to about 55 percent of their annuities -- for spouses.

At the time of retirement most federal workers elect to have their monthly annuities reduced by 10 percent to provide survivor benefits.

But many retirees contend that they were given bad advice from retirement counselors and didn't elect the benefit. Others simply didn't choose the benefit but decided, later on, that they had made a mistake. Currently they cannot buy back into the program.

Wolf's bill would give all current retirees 18 months to elect to provide a survivor benefit, provided they also paid back to the government the amount of money that would have been taken from their pensions had they elected a survivor benefit when they retired.

Interest would also be charged on the back payments. Persons retiring in the future would have 18 months from the day of retirement to decide whether to provide a survivor benefit.