Federal Retirement Plan Looks Into Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses

By Eric Katz

July 1, 2013

The Thrift Savings Plan may have to adjust some of its regulations after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last week.

Federal employees can designate anyone as a beneficiary of the retirement investment plan, a TSP spokeswoman told The Washington Post, but the court’s decision changes the procedure when a deceased employee has not named a beneficiary.

DOMA had defined marriage as between a man and a woman, preventing federal employees from sharing their benefits with their same-sex spouses. With the law struck down, however, the TSP must revisit its policies.

“We are reviewing our regulations and processes to determine what needs to be changed in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Kim Weaver said in a statement to The Post. “We will comply as quickly as we can, but we do not have a timeframe for how fast that will be.”

The Office of Personnel Management issued preliminary guidance last week, giving same-sex couples immediate access to federal benefits such as health care, dental and vision insurance, life insurance, retirement pensions and flexible spending accounts. The TSP falls outside of OPM’s purview, however, and the plan’s governing agency -- the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board -- must conduct its own review.

When a TSP participant dies, the participant’s spouse can keep the plan open, while any other beneficiary must withdraw or transfer the accumulated funds. While the beneficiary issue is at the forefront of TSP’s DOMA-related adjustments, the retirement program may have to adapt other rules as well.

“The review we are undertaking is intended to determine what other regulations need to be changed,” Weaver told Government Executive.

(Image via Amy Walters/Shutterstock.com)

By Eric Katz

July 1, 2013