FAQ Index

    Questings

    Who is eligible for a GARS survivor’s annuity?

    A GARS survivor’s annuity is payable to an eligible surviving spouse or eligible child:

    1. upon the death in service of a participant with at least 2 years of service credit;
    2. upon the death of an annuitant in receipt of a retirement annuity; or
    3. upon the death of a participant who terminated service with at least 4 years of service credit.

    Are all surviving spouses eligible for a GARS survivor’s annuity?

    No. To be eligible for a GARS survivor’s annuity, the requirements above must have been met and the surviving spouse must have been married to the GARS participant or annuitant for a continuous period of at least one year preceding the date of death of the participant or annuitant.

    Are all surviving children eligible for a GARS survivor’s annuity?

    No. The only children of deceased GARS participants and annuitants who are eligible for GARS survivor annuities are “eligible children,” which Article 2 of the Illinois Pension Code defines as any child of a deceased GARS participant or annuitant who is at least one of the following:

    1. unmarried and under the age of 18;
    2. unmarried, a full-time student, and under the age of 22;
    3. dependent by reason of physical or mental disability.

    How is the amount of a GARS survivor’s annuity calculated?

    Section 2-121.1 of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/2-121.1) contains four separate formulas that are generally used by GARS staff to calculate the amount of GARS survivor’s annuities.

    Formula #1: Surviving Spouse

    A survivor’s annuity calculated under this formula is equal to 66 2/3% of the amount of retirement annuity to which the participant or annuitant was entitled on the date of death, without regard to whether the participant had attained age 55 prior to his or her death, subject to a minimum payment of 10% of salary.

    Formula #2: Surviving Spouse with an Eligible Child or Children*

    A survivor’s annuity calculated under this formula is equal to the greater of the following: (1) 66 2/3% of the amount of retirement annuity to which the participant or annuitant was entitled on the date of death, or (2) 30% of the participant's salary increased by 10% of salary on account of each eligible child, subject to a total payment for the surviving spouse and children of 50% of salary.

    Formula #3: Eligible Children but No Surviving Spouse*

    Under this formula, each eligible child is entitled to an annuity of 20% of salary, subject to a maximum total payment for all eligible children of 50% of salary.

    Formula #4: Dependent Disabled Child

    Under this formula, the survivor’s annuity that is payable is equal to 100% of the amount of retirement annuity to which the participant or annuitant was entitled on the date of death.

    However, regardless of the formula used, the minimum survivor's annuity payable to any person who is entitled to receive a GARS survivor's annuity is $300 per month.

    *Also, note that, upon the death of a participant after the termination of service or upon the death of an annuitant, the maximum total payment to a surviving spouse and eligible children under Formula #2, or to eligible children alone under Formula #3, is 75% of the retirement annuity to which the participant or annuitant was entitled.

    When does a GARS survivor’s annuity become payable?

    The date upon which a GARS survivor’s annuity becomes payable depends on whether the member dies as a participant or annuitant, whether he or she dies with or without children in the care of a surviving spouse, and, in some cases, the age of the surviving spouse. If the member is an active participant and dies with children in the care of a surviving spouse, then the annuity becomes payable on the date of death. If the member is an annuitant and dies with children in the care of a surviving spouse, then the annuity becomes payable on the first of the month following the date of death. If the member is an active participant and dies without children in the care of a surviving spouse, then the annuity becomes payable on the date of death, unless the surviving spouse is under age 50, in which case, the annuity becomes payable when the surviving spouse is 50. If the member is an annuitant and dies without children in the care of a surviving spouse, then the annuity becomes payable on the first of the month following the date of death, unless the surviving spouse is under age 50, in which case, the annuity becomes payable when the surviving spouse is 50.

    Are GARS survivor’s annuities subject to automatic annual increases?

    Yes. Following the death of an active GARS member, the survivor benefit is increased 3% on each January 1, following the first anniversary of the benefit. If the member was retired at the date of death, the survivor annuity is increased by 3% on January 1 after the commencement of the survivor annuity.

    What happens if I die without any eligible survivors?

    If you die while in active service with no qualified survivors, your named beneficiary or estate will receive your GARS contributions. If you die with no qualified survivors while receiving a permanent disability benefit or retirement benefit, your named beneficiary or estate will receive your total contributions, less any benefits paid.

    Is a GARS survivor’s annuity subject to a workers’ compensation offset?

    Yes. A GARS survivor’s annuity may be reduced by amounts received under the Workers’ Compensation Act or Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act. However, there shall be no reduction for payments for medical, surgical and hospital services, non-medical remedial care and treatment rendered in accordance with a religious method of healing recognized by the laws of this State, and for artificial appliances, and fixed statutory payments for the loss of or the permanent and complete loss of the use of any bodily member.

    Can a GARS survivor’s annuity be adjusted?

    Yes. When a child ceases to be an eligible child, the annuity to that child, or to the surviving spouse on account of that child, shall thereupon cease, and the annuity payable to the surviving spouse or other eligible children shall be recalculated if necessary. If a surviving spouse with eligible children dies while receiving a survivor’s annuity, the annuity payable to the surviving spouse will be terminated and recalculated to pay any eligible children. Additionally, upon the ineligibility of the last eligible child, the annuity shall immediately revert to the amount payable upon death of a participant or annuitant who leaves no eligible children. If the surviving spouse is then under age 50, the annuity as revised shall be deferred until the attainment of age 50.