What is the Surviving Spouse Benefit (SSB)?

What is the Surviving Spouse Benefit (SSB)?

The Federal Government retirement systems, CSRS and FERS, provide the opportunity for the retiree to continue a portion of their retirement annuity to a surviving spouse.

How it works

 A surviving spouse can include the current, former, or same gender spouse. When elected, the retiree’s annuity is reduced by approximately 10% to cover about half of the cost of providing the SSB, while the system bears the balance of the cost. 

The amount of the SSB depends on the elections chosen by the employee at retirement. OPM will compute a full survivor benefit, unless a lesser or amount is elected, with spousal consent. Court orders may also dictate how much of the available benefit is given to the current, as well as other eligible spouses. Under CSRS, the employee and spouse can choose the full 55% benefit, any amount less, or no SSB at all. FERS provides the choice of 50%, 25%, or no SSB. If Federal Health, Dental, and Vision benefits are intended to be continued for survivors, some level survivor benefits must be elected in each of the systems. 

Survivor elections can be changed after retirement within certain guidelines provided by OPM. Possible changes can also include: marriage to new spouse, death or divorce of the current spouse, or death of a former spouse.

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