Order Code 98-249 GOV
Updated March 18, 2008
Federal Pension and Retirement Benefits
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Congress enacted the Former Presidents Act (FPA) in 1958 to provide former
Presidents an annual lifetime pension, currently $191,300, and office allowances
administered by the General Services Administration (GSA). The FPA, as amended,
also provides former Presidents with travel funds and mailing privileges (3 U.S.C. 102
note). Secret Service protection for former Presidents is also authorized by statute.
P.L. 110-161, the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, authorizes $2,478,000 in
funding for former Presidents. The President’s FY2009 budget requests $2,934,000 to
provide former Presidents with pensions and office allowances.
Chief executives leaving office prior to 1958 often entered retirement pursuing
various occupations and received no federal assistance. When industrialist Andrew
Carnegie announced a plan in 1912 to offer $25,000 annual pensions to former Presidents,
many Members of Congress deemed it inappropriate that such a pension would be
provided by a private corporation executive. That same year, legislation was first
introduced to create presidential pensions, but it was not enacted. In 1955, such
legislation was considered by Congress because of former President Harry S. Truman’s
financial limitations in hiring an office staff. Enacted in 1958, the Former Presidents Act
(FPA) has been amended to provide increases in presidential pensions and the allowances
for office staff.
Benefits Available to Former Presidents
The General Services Administration (GSA) is authorized by the FPA to provide an
office staff and suitable office space, appropriately furnished and equipped, at a location
within the United States designated by a former President, for the rest of his or her
lifetime. In 1961, the Comptroller General of the United States ruled that the FPA also
applies to office supplies such as stationery and local and long distance telephone service.
Pensions. The Former Presidents Act, as amended, provides each former President
a taxable pension that is equal to the annual rate of basic pay for the head of an executive
department (Executive Level I), currently $191,300. The pension begins immediately
upon a President’s departure from office at noon on Inauguration Day, January 20. The
Secretary of the Treasury is responsible for making the monthly pension payments, as
authorized by the FPA. A presidential widow is provided a $20,000 annual lifetime
pension and franking privileges. The widow must waive the right to any annuity or
pension under any other legislation. Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford are the surviving
widows. According to GSA, Mrs. Reagan and Mrs. Ford do not receive the annual
pension, since they did not waive the right to any other annuity or pension provided by
According to a 1974 opinion by the Department of Justice concerning President
Richard Nixon’s resignation from office, a President who resigns before his official term
of office expires is entitled to the same lifetime pension and benefits that are authorized
other former Presidents. However, a President who is removed from office by
impeachment forfeits his pension and related benefits. The ruling states that
The FPA [Former Presidents Act] provides certain benefits to “former Presidents.” A
former President is defined in Section (f) as a person who has been President, is not
currently President, and who was not removed from office pursuant to impeachment
and conviction in the Senate. The statutory language is unambiguous and Mr. Nixon
clearly meets the statutory definition of a former President.1
Transition Expenses. As authorized by the Presidential Transition Act, as
amended, transition funding is available to the outgoing President and Vice President for
seven months, beginning one month before the January 20 inauguration, to facilitate their
relocation to private life.2 These funds are used to provide suitable office space, staff
compensation, communications services, and printing and postage associated with the
transition. Based on the Department of Justice’s 1974 decision, a President who resigns
before his term of office has expired is also entitled to transition expenses.
In order to provide federal funding in the event of a 2004-2005 presidential
transition, the President’s FY2005 budget requested a total of $7.7 million. The House
passed H.R. 5025, the FY2005 Transportation, Treasury, and Independent Agencies
appropriations bill, on September 22, 2004. The legislation recommended for GSA a total
of $7.7 million for transition expenses. In the Senate, S. 2806 also recommended a total
of $7.7 million to implement a possible transition. P.L. 108-309 was enacted on
September 30, 2004, to provide continuing non-defense appropriations through November
20. A total of $2.5 million was authorized in the event of a presidential transition, until
enactment of the FY2005 omnibus appropriations bill. Due to the outcome of the 2004
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Assistant Attorney General, letter to the Administrator
of the General Services Administration from Mary C. Lawton, Acting Assistant Attorney
General, Office of Legal Counsel, Washington, DC, August 15, 1974.
3 U.S.C. 102 note. For a detailed discussion of transition benefits, see CRS Report RS20709,
Presidential Transitions: Background and Federal Support, by Stephanie Smith; and CRS Report
RL30736, Presidential Transitions, by Stephanie Smith.
presidential election, no funds were provided in P.L. 108-447, the FY2005 Consolidated
GSA was appropriated a total of $7.1 million for the FY2001 transition (P.L. 106426): $1.83 million for the outgoing Clinton Administration; $4.27 million for the
incoming Bush Administration; and $1 million for GSA to provide additional assistance
as required by the Presidential Transition Act of 2000.3 A total of $1.5 million was
appropriated for the transition expenses of outgoing President George Bush and Vice
President Dan Quayle (106 Stat. 1729). Of this total, the Bush Administration determined
that $1.25 million would be made available to former President Bush, with the remaining
$250,000 to be used by former Vice President Quayle. During his FY1993 transition
period, former President Bush used $907,939, with an unobligated balance of $342,061.
During the same period, former Vice President Quayle used $244,192 for transition
expenses, with an unobligated balance of $5,808. For FY1997, $5.6 million was
authorized in the event of a presidential transition in January 1997, which did not occur.
Staff and Office Allowances. Six months after a President leaves office,
provisions of the Former Presidents Act, as amended, authorize the GSA Administrator
to fund an office staff. During the first 30-month period when a former President is
entitled to assistance under the FPA, the total annual basic compensation for his office
staff cannot exceed $150,000. Thereafter, the aggregate rates of staff compensation for
a former President cannot exceed $96,000 annually. The maximum annual rate of
compensation for any one staff member cannot exceed the pay provided at Level II of the
Executive Schedule, currently $172,200. A former President supplements staff
compensation or hires additional employees from private funds. The GSA Administrator
provides suitable office space, equipment, and supplies at any location within the United
States selected by a former President. The FPA does not provide any information or
guidance for GSA concerning the amount of office space requested by a former President.
The funding for this provision becomes effective six months after the expiration of a
President’s term of office. Once a former President has chosen suitable office space, a
standard-level user charge, equivalent to space rental cost, is included in GSA’s budget
for former Presidents. GSA, in consultation with officials representing the former
Presidents, prepares yearly operating budgets. Funds are appropriated by Congress and
included as part of GSA’s annual appropriation act. In addition to assisting the former
Presidents’ offices with budget preparation, GSA also provides administrative support for
the offices of former Presidents, assisting on requests for equipment, supplies, and other
office expenditures. GSA makes the final determination on costs for office space and
equipment. At the discretion of the GSA Administrator, a former President’s office is
closed six months following his death to allow sufficient time to complete unfinished
business and transfer appropriate documents and other items to the presidential library.
The FY1995 Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Appropriations Act
(108 Stat. 2410) proscribed the use of funds for allowances and office staff of former
Presidents for “partisan political activities.” The FY1998 Treasury, Postal Service, and
General Government Appropriations Act (111 Stat. 1299) contained a provision restoring
lifetime staff and office allowances to former Presidents by repealing law limiting the
P.L. 106-293; October 12, 2000.
allowances.4 Elimination of this limitation was actively pursued by the surviving former
Travel Expenses. Legislation enacted in 1968 authorizes GSA funds to be made
available to a former President and no more than two members of his staff for official
travel and related expenses. GSA makes the final determination on appropriate costs for
travel expenses (FY1969 Supplemental Appropriations Act, 82 Stat. 1192). Table 1
indicates the enacted FY2008 GSA funding for former Presidents.6
Table 1. GSA Allowances for Former Presidents, FY2008 Enacted
Source: Data provided by the Office of the Budget, General Services Administration, on January 24, 2008.
In addition to the federal pension and retirement allowances provided by GSA, other
benefits are also made available to a former President.
State Funerals. A former President is traditionally granted a state funeral
following his death. Certain military honors and traditions are extended by the military,
based on the wishes and requests made for the former President’s surviving family
The FY1994 Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Appropriations Act (107 Stat.
1246) had amended the FPA to limit the authorized allowances for a five-year period. Staff and
office allowances would have ended in October 1998.
Karen Gullo, “Allowances for Life,” Associated Press Online, January 12, 1998.
P.L. 110-161, December 26, 2007.
The annual pension for each former President is equal to the Executive Level I rate of pay.
According to GSA, the additional $10,000 requested for former President William J. Clinton is
for health benefits insurance. Until her death on July 11, 2007, Mrs. Johnson was the only
surviving widow to receive a $20,000 annual pension, since Mrs. Reagan and Mrs. Ford did not
waive their rights to any other pension provided by statute. They do, however, receive franking
members.8 The sitting President officially announces the death of a former President and
commander-in-chief by presidential proclamation, and offers the nation’s condolences to
the former President’s immediate family. The President also orders that suitable honors
be rendered by units of the armed forces under orders of the Secretary of Defense. The
Secretary designates the Secretary of the Army as his personal representative. In turn, the
Secretary of the Army delegates to the commanding general of the U.S. Military District
of Washington (MDW) the overall authority for planning and implementing funeral
arrangements for the former President. Each living former President has also prepared a
formal funeral request, which is kept on file by the MDW. According to the long-standing
custom that an officer escort the immediate family of a deceased military member until
burial, the commanding general of the MDW escorts the former President’s family
members during all funeral ceremonies.
Under the supervision of the U.S. Military District of Washington, each branch of
the armed forces provides personnel and support to the state funeral, such as participation
by the Armed Forces Honor Guard, which provides security for the former President’s
remains while they are in repose or are lying in state. A former President, as former
commander-in-chief, is also entitled to burial in the Arlington, VA, National Cemetery.
In addition to the military, Congress also honors the former President by allowing his
body to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda for a state funeral ceremony, followed by public
closed casket viewing.
Following former President Gerald R. Ford’s death on December 26, 2006, President
George W. Bush announced by proclamation that U.S. flags on federal facilities
throughout the world be flown at half-staff for 30 days. He also ordered that suitable
honors be rendered by units of the armed forces, as directed by the Secretary of Defense.
Two days later, on December 28, 2006, President Bush issued an executive order which
proclaimed January 2, 2007, as a day of respect and remembrance for the former
President, and ordered the closing of federal offices and agencies. A state funeral took
place in the Capitol Rotunda on December 30, 2006, where former President Ford lay in
state, with subsequent services on January 2, 2007, at the Washington National Cathedral.
Funeral services for the former President were conducted on January 3, 2007, in Grand
Rapids, Michigan, with interment at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.
Following former President Reagan’s death on June 5, 2004, President George W.
Bush announced by proclamation that U.S. flags on federal facilities throughout the world
would be flown at half-staff for 30 days. He also directed the Secretary of Defense to
render suitable honors to the former President by units of the armed forces, and designated
June 11, 2004, as a National Day of Mourning. After a state funeral ceremony in the
Capitol Rotunda, former President Reagan lay in state for 34 hours beginning on June 9
at 9:00 p.m.; a National Funeral Service followed on June 11 at the Washington National
Cathedral. Based on his wishes, former President Ronald R. Reagan was interred at the
Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.
Medical Expenses. Former Presidents and their spouses, widows, and minor
children are entitled to treatment in military hospitals because of their status as secretarial
The military has rendered military honors to former Presidents since the burial of George
Washington on December 18, 1799, at Mount Vernon, VA.
designees, authorized to receive such benefits by the Secretary of Defense. Health care
costs are billed to the individual at an interagency reimbursement rate established by the
Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Former Presidents and their dependents may
also enroll in private health plans at their own expense.
Secret Service Protection. The Secret Service provides lifetime protection for
former Presidents who entered office before January 1, 1997, and for their spouses (18
U.S.C. 3056). Surviving spouses of former Presidents receive protection until remarriage.
Legislation enacted in 1984 allows former Presidents or their dependents to decline Secret
Service protection (98 Stat. 3110). In addition to Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford, former
Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and their wives receive
protection. According to Lt. Don Nichols, U.S. Capitol Police, protection for Hillary
Rodham Clinton, as Senator, is shared between the U.S. Capitol Police and the U.S.
Secret Service. Both organizations have statutory responsibility for her security — the
Secret Service for spouses of former Presidents and the Capitol Police for Members of
Congress. Protection costs for former Presidents are not publicly disclosed by the Secret
Service for reasons of security.
The FY1995 Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Appropriations Act
(108 Stat. 2413) amended 18 U.S.C. 3056 to limit protection to 10 years for former
Presidents who begin serving after January 1, 1997, and for their spouses. A spouse’s
10-year protection ends upon divorce, remarriage, or the former President’s death.
Following the death of an acting President (see Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the
Constitution), a spouse receives protection for one year. The Secretary of Homeland
Security can also authorize temporary protection at any time. Protection for a former
President’s children is available to them until the age of 16 or for a period not to exceed
10 years, whichever occurs first. P.L. 106-554, the Presidential Threat Protection Act of
2000, granted the Secret Service additional authority to investigate threats against former
Presidents and their families.
Presidential Libraries. With the exception of Richard Nixon, every former
President since the administration of Herbert Hoover has had a presidential library,
managed by the National Archives and Records Administration, established in his name.9
The process of creating such a presidential library may begin with the establishment of
a presidential library foundation, a private organization under the leadership of friends of
the President, which usually enjoys tax exempt status, and mandated to receive donations
and contributions which will be used to purchase a land site and pay for the construction
of an edifice to house the records of the former President. When a presidential library
facility has been constructed and deeded to the government, the Archivist deposits the
President’s official records and papers there and assumes management of the library.
For a detailed discussion, see CRS Report RS20825, Presidential Libraries: The Federal
System and Related Legislation, by Harold C. Relyea.