Pension Plans:

Survivor Benefit Coverage for Wives Increased After 1984 Pension Law

HRD-92-49: Published: Feb 28, 1992. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on survivor pension benefits for widowed individuals, focusing on: (1) the prevalence of survivor pension benefits; (2) the relative size of survivor benefits received by widowed men and women; (3) the rate at which married pension retirees are retaining a joint and survivor (J&S) annuities; and (4) whether the rate of J&S annuity retention has changed since the Retirement Equity Act of 1984.

GAO found that: (1) in 1989, about 3 million widowed Americans age 65 and over received survivor benefits based on the pension of a deceased spouse; (2) women comprised virtually all benefit recipients and received an average of about twice the benefits of men with survivor benefits; (3) survivor benefits are an important source of income for widowed women, since they are less likely to have a pension based on their own employment; (4) as of 1989, about 3 million of 5 million pensioners had retained the J&S annuity; and (5) survivor benefit coverage for wives of private-pension retirees has increased since the act, as evidenced by the 15-percent increase in the rate at which married men retained the J&S annuity after the spousal consent requirement took effect.

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