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Federal Employees News Digest : July 8, 2013
A s a result of the Supreme Court's ruling on June 26 that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, the Office of Personnel Management will extend various employee benefits to federal employees and annuitants who have legally mar- ried a spouse of the same sex and live in the states or the District of Columbia that recognize same-sex marriages. Numerous benefits are affected by the Supreme Court's decision. OPM recently stated in a memorandum that it is working with the Department of Justice to ensure swift and seamless implementation of the court's ruling. This week's column discusses the various employee benefits currently available to married heterosexual cou- ples that eventually will be made available to same-sex married couples. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) will also have to make some adjustments regarding benefits and rights available to these same-sex spouses of TSP participants. This will also be discussed in this column. CSRS and FERS survivor annuity benefits. Under current law, a CSRS or FERS employee cannot give a spousal survivor annuity benefit to a same-sex spouse. But a retiring employee can give an insurable interest survivor benefit to a same-sex spouse. Two potential prob- lems associated with an insurable interest survivor benefit are: (1) the employee is responsible for arranging and paying the costs of a current medical examination, proving the employee is in good health; and (2) the employee cannot retire under a disability. Neither problem applies to married employees with heterosexual spouses. Now, in the wake of the new ruling, all annuitants who are in legal same-sex marriages will have two years from the date of the Supreme Court's decision (until June 26, 2015) to inform OPM that they have a legal marriage that now qualifies them for recognition, thereby allowing any changes to their retirement benefits based on their recognized marital status. OPM will in the coming days develop guidance to help annuitants determine whether they wish to change their CSRS or FERS pension benefits in a way that will provide benefits for their surviving spouse. Annuitants will need to determine whether a survivor annuity benefit for a same- sex spouse makes economic sense. This is because making the election to give a survivor annuity benefit to a spouse will result in a reduction in the monthly CSRS or FERS annuity that the annuitant currently receives. Two important questions for annuitants who choose to give a survivor annuity benefits to a same-sex spouse are: (1) how OPM will determine the cost factor to give a spousal survivor annuity; and (2) whether the cost factor will be made retroactive to the first annuity check the annuitant received. Health insurance under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. All legally married same-sex spouses will now be eligible family members under a self and family enrollment. In addition, children of same-sex marriages will be treated just as children of heterosexual marriages and will be family members according to the same eligibility guidelines. Employees and annuitants will have 60 days starting June 26, 2013, until Aug. 26, 2013, to make immediate changes to their FEHB enroll- ment. Current enrollees will also be eligible to make changes to their coverage options during the next FEHB open season later this year. Dental and vision insurance under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). As with the FEHB program, all legally married same-sex spouses will now be eligible family members under self and family enrollment or a self plus one enrollment. Current FEDVIP enrollees can now call BENEFEDS (1-877-888-3337) to make the necessary enrollment changes. Enrollees will have 60 days starting June 26, 2013, until Aug. 26, 2013, to make changes to their current FEDVIP enrollment. Current enrollees will also be able to make changes to their coverage options during the next FEDVIP open season later this year. Flexible spending accounts. Employees who are in legal same-sex marriages will now be able to submit claims for medical expenses for their same-sex spouses and any newly qualifying children to their flex- ible spending program under FSAFEDs. Long-Term Care Insurance. All legally married same-sex spouses can now apply for long-term care insurance under the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). Same-sex spouses of employ- ees will have 60 days from June 26, 2013, until Aug. 26, 2013, to apply for FLTCIP coverage with abbreviated underwriting. Life Insurance. All legally married same-sex spouses and children of legal same-sex marriages are now eligible family members under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program. This means that employees may add coverage for a same-sex spouse and any newly eligible children under Option C (Family Coverage). Employees will have 60 days from June 26, 2013 until Aug. 26, 2013 to make changes to their FEGLI enrollment. Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Under current TSP rules, when a CSRS- covered TSP account owner wants to withdraw funds from his or her TSP account, the account owner's spouse has to be notified of the withdrawal. If a married FERS-covered TSP account owner wants to withdraw funds from his or her TSP account, then the account owner's spouse must consent in writing to the withdrawal. Similar rules should apply to TSP account owners who are legally married to same-sex spouses. Edward A. Zurndorfer is a Certified Financial Planner and Enrolled Agent in Silver Spring, MD. He is also a registered representative with FSC Securities Corporation, branch address: 833 Bromley St. - Suite A, Silver Spring, MD 20902. Phone: (301) 681-1652. Securities offered through FSC Securities Corporation,member FINRA/SIPC. EZ Accounting and Financial Services and FSC are independent companies. Informed Investor OPM to issue guidance on extension of benefits to married same-sex couples July 8, 2013 Vol. 62, No. 49 7 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com
July 1, 2013
July 15, 2013