Dated policy? Plus, survivor benefits

A Reader Writes:

I'm an experienced civilian network engineer being pushed out of a job in the hard-to-hire information technology sector not because of experience but because of a dated 1966 Defense Department policy that limits DOD civilian employees to working no longer than five years overseas.

Most civilians working under the rule think it is dumb and I've seen its effect: our losing experienced people. We've invested large amounts of training and time in them only to force them out.

What is your opinion on the value of this policy?

Milt Replies:

It probably has to do with the desire to give others who so desire an opportunity to work overseas. The State Department has similar policies. It's also intended to rotate people into a variety of assignments during their career and broaden their experience base.

A Reader Writes:

How does the widow of a retired employee go about letting the Postal Service know that the retiree has passed on? Also, what are the steps to follow for applying for his insurance, etc.?

Milt Replies:

If a retiree dies who, at retirement, elected to provide a survivor annuity for his/her surviving spouse and/or former spouse, a monthly survivor benefit may be payable.

Applicants for death benefits should complete Standard Form (SF) 2800, Application for Death Benefits. Specific instructions for completing and mailing SF 2800 are on the form itself. The Office of Personnel Management will stop the payments to the deceased and assign a CSF number to you as quickly as possible after receiving the report of the death. The CSF number — a seven-digit number preceded by "CSF" assigned to the survivor(s) of an annuitant — is important because you will need to use that number whenever you contact OPM about your annuity.

If you are eligible for monthly payments, OPM will send you a survivor annuity statement that shows your monthly annuity rate and any amounts it has withheld. Generally, the withholding is for health benefits premiums and income tax.

As for the Postal Service, inquire at your local post office.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at


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