Thursday, July 06, 2017

This Widow Does Not Meet the Legal Definition of ‘Widow’ for Federal Retirement Purposes

FedSmith reports:
In Becker v Office of Personnel Management (US CAFC No. 2016-1365, 4/7/17), the issue involved a surviving spouse who had been married to her husband less than the required amount of time for her to be eligible for a survivor annuity under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). In this precedential decision, the federal appeals court sustained the decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which had upheld the ruling by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that the widow would not receive survivor benefits.

Todd Mayberry worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and was covered by the FERS retirement program. He made the necessary election for his new wife to receive benefits in the event of his death. As it happens when Mr. Mayberry died, the marriage was less than 9 months duration. (The decision does not mention how long they were married, presumably because it really does not matter as long as it was less than the 9 months.) Ms. Becker, the surviving spouse, applied to OPM for survivor benefits but was turned down. Under 5 USC section 8441(1) a widow is defined as having been married to the covered decedent for at least 9 months preceding his death, or is the mother of children resulting from the marriage. Ms. Becker met neither test; therefore OPM ruled her ineligible for a survivor annuity.
For you rookies out there...