In the event of your death, will your spouse or executor know how to go about reporting your death to the HR Service Center? Will your spouse know how annuity payments and
Federal Employees Health Benefits Program coverage will continue? What about collecting Federal Employees Group Life Insurance life insurance benefits? If not, it’s time to sit down together and talk about this eventuality and to organize your financial files so that critical financial information is readily available and understandable.
A surviving spouse should notify the HR Service Center at HRSC@state.gov or 1 (866) 300-7419. In doing so, he/she should provide the full name of the annuitant, dates of his/her birth and death, Social Security number and relationship of those who may be entitled to survivor benefits. Within 24 hours of receiving this notification, the HR Service Center will examine the records of the deceased annuitant and send the surviving spouse an Application for Death Benefits and information about FEHBP and FEGLI benefits. If the completed application is returned by mail or faxed to the department before the 10th of the month, the surviving spouse will receive an annuity payment the following month.
If the annuitant had FEGLI life-insurance coverage, the HR Service Center will certify the date of death to the Office of Personnel Management, which in turn will send instructions and claim forms to the designated beneficiaries. If these do not arrive within five weeks, the survivor or executor should write directly to OPM (Attention: CSI/LI/Roll Maintenance, Employee Service and Records Center, P.O. Box 45, Boyers, PA 16017). This letter should provide the full name of the annuitant, date of his/her birth, the name of the retirement system (FSRDS or FSPS) and the annuitant’s identification number, which is prefaced by the letters CSI- and found in the annuitant’s insurance certification document and in the department’s letter of instructions.
Please be aware that unless a beneficiary asks that the FEGLI life insurance proceeds be paid out in a lump sum, the proceeds will be deposited in a retained asset account. These accounts are managed by and held in the name of the administrator for FEGLI. This practice has raised serious congressional concerns about the disclosures, protections and earnings given to beneficiaries.
If the annuitant had a self and family FEHBP enrollment at the date of death and a survivor annuity is payable, the surviving spouse can continue health coverage. It is important that the surviving spouse inform the department of the death of the annuitant immediately, since there is a 60-day period after the death of an annuitant in which the department can act to assure this continuation. In doing this, if there are no other eligible family members, the Office of Retirement will automatically change the family enrollment to a self-only enrollment. The premiums for the surviving spouse will be deducted automatically from the survivor annuity, if applicable.
The time following the death of a spouse is a difficult one. One way to make this time easier is to talk about what to do in this eventuality, and to create files for the surviving spouse and executor with information that pertains to survivor benefits. At a minimum, the file should include: a copy of the Foreign Service Death Benefits Claim Information, JF-37 Election of Annuity Benefits (Survivor Benefits Election), DS-5008 Election of Less Than Maximum Survivor Benefit and SF-2823 Designation of Beneficiary (FEGLI Program). The survivor should also know that a number of copies of the annuitant’s death certificate may be required, not only by the government, but also by financial institutions.