Question: Do survivors of retired federal employees continue receiving annuity benefits?

Answer: A standard survivor benefit is provided by default, but you could elect a smaller benefit, or none, if your spouse consents in writing.

The default monthly survivor benefit under the Federal Employees Retirement System — which generally covers federal employees first hired in 1984 or after — is 50 percent of the retiree’s annuity. To pay for it, your annuity will be reduced by 10 percent. A benefit of 25 percent also is available, at a cost of a 5 percent reduction in your annuity.

Under the older Civil Service Retirement System, the default survivor benefit is 55 percent of your annuity, although any lower amount can be chosen. Your annuity will be reduced by about 10 percent of the level you choose.

Surviving spouse annuities are based on the retiree’s annuity before the reduction, including inflation adjustments since retirement. The benefit continues for the life of the surviving spouse unless he or she remarries before age 55.

Survivors receiving annuities also can remain in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, with the same government contribution toward premiums, if they were covered at the retiree’s death.