RRB Disability Benefits

| Railroad Retirement Board and Disability Benefits

(877) 772-5772 or (877) RRB-5RRB

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) is an independent agency in the executive branch of the Federal Government. The RRB’s primary function is to administer comprehensive retirement, survivor, unemployment and sickness benefits for the nation’s railroad workers and their families, under the Railroad Retirement and Railroad Unemployment Insurance Acts.

The RRB was created as a retirement benefit program for the nation’s railroad workers. The railroad industry had pioneered private industrial pension plans.

While the railroad retirement system has remained separate from the social security system, the two systems are closely coordinated with regard to earnings credits, benefit payments, and taxes. A financial interchange links financing of the two systems by coordinating the portion of railroad retirement annuities that is equivalent to social security benefits with the social security program. The purpose of this financial coordination is to place the social security trust funds in the same position they would be in if the social security program covered railroad service instead of the railroad retirement system.
When an employee is injured on the railroad and will be medically restricted from returning to work for a period of time, the railroad itself is not obligated to pay the employee while off work recovering from the injury.  The employee is eligible to receive Supplemental Sickness Benefits through the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) as a source of income while off work.  For these benefits to start, the employee and his treating doctor must complete forms that need to be sent to the RRB for processing.  There is a seven (7) day waiting period following the last day the employee worked before benefits will be paid and the forms need to be completed and forwarded to the RRB on a regular basis for these benefits to continue.  Thus, getting your disability benefits started as quickly as possible is important.
A railroad employee may qualify for an Occupational Disability Annuity if the employee has 240 months of Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) credited service, maintains a current connection with the railroad, and is physically unable to perform the employment duties of their customary railroad position.  To qualify for an Occupational Disability, the employee does not have to be totally disabled from all occupations.  An employee can also file for an Occupational Disability Annuity if the employee is over age 60 and has at least 120 months of RRB credited railroad service and meets all of the above criteria.  If you are short of required service months and are off sick or injured, we can offer suggestions on ways to obtain additional months of credited RRB service.
A railroad employee may also be eligible for a Total Disability Annuity if the employee’s medical condition is severe enough that the employee is rendered permanently and totally disabled from all work.  Eligibility for this RRB disability is similar to the requirements for receipt of a Social Security disability.
A railroad employee can apply for a Regular Age/Service Retirement annuity and receive a full annuity at age 60 provided the employee has at least 360 months of credited RRB railroad service.  Their spouse can also receive benefits at age 60, provided the employee is 60 years old and retired.  The spouse may also receive benefits at an earlier age if there is a minor or disabled child in their care.

The Tier 1 portion of a RRB Annuity is calculated based on the employee earnings from the railroad and Social Security earnings. Social Security’s formula for a retirement annuity is used in calculating this portion of the benefit, which is the highest 35 years of earnings of the employee. If the employee does not have 30 years of railroad service and is not disabled, the annuity cannot begin any earlier than age 62 and would be subject to a reduced pension due to the applicable age reduction. If the employee has less than 30 years of service, the full retirement age is anywhere from age 65-67, depending upon the year the employee was born.

The Tier 2 portion of a RRB Annuity is calculated using an average of the highest 60 months of railroad Tier 2 earnings. This monthly average is then multiplied by the number of years of railroad service. That figure is then multiplied by .007% and this is the Tier 2 amount of the employee’s annuity. Active military service may be creditable as railroad service months but these months will not be included on the RRB BA-6 form.

The spouse of a railroad employee may be entitled to RRB Spousal Benefits. A spouse is entitled to 50% of the employee’s Tier 1 benefit portion and 45% of the employee’s Tier 2 benefit portion. If the employee did not have 30 years of railroad service, the benefit would be subject to an age reduction if the spouse is not at full retirement age. The Tier 1 benefit amount is also reduced if the spouse receives Social Security benefits or a Public Service Pension.

It is often not advantageous for the employee or their spouse to file for their own Social Security benefits because of the offset on the Tier 1 portion of the Railroad Retirement benefit. This is especially true if a reduced Social Security benefit has to be taken because this reduced benefit amount may be completely offset from the Tier 1 benefit. Sometimes it is advantageous to wait until you are older to file for Social Security benefits because Delayed Retirement Credits can be obtained which could lead, at some point in the future, to a monthly benefit that is more than the spouse’s Tier 1 Benefit portion.

An employee must have a Current Connection in order to receive a RRB Occupational Disability Annuity. A Current Connection is also required in order for the RRB to pay Survivor Benefits in the event of the death of the employee. Generally, a Current Connection is maintained if the employee worked for the railroad 12 consecutive months out of the last 30 months prior to retirement. Most self-employment will not break an employee’s Current Connection. Also, some Federal jobs, such as working for the DOT or RRB, will not break a Current Connection.

The Railroad Medicare program covers railroad workers just like workers covered under social security. The Medicare program provides health insurance to persons ages 65 and older, as well as persons under age 65 who have been entitled to monthly benefits based on total disability for at least 24 months or who suffer from chronic kidney disease requiring hemodialysis or transplant. In addition to basic hospital insurance (Part A) financed by payroll taxes, there is an elective supplementary medical insurance (Part B) that covers many other medical services, such as doctor visits, durable medical equipment, and outpatient services that hospital insurance does not cover.

Eligible railroad retirement annuitants and social security beneficiaries whose benefits are payable by the RRB are automatically enrolled under both plans, but the annuitant or beneficiary can decline Medicare Part B. Eligible nonretired persons must apply in order to obtain Medicare coverage.

The RRB’s headquarters is located at 844 North Rush Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611-2092. The agency’s website is at www.rrb.gov.

There is a terrific website for railroaders that provides answers to all of your questions about insurance, retirement and benefits. The website is called “Your Track to Health”.

Click To View | Your Track to Health
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