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Stop, Look & Listen: Railroad Retirement Benefits Q&A

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Minimum Age for Widow(er) Benefits

(Posted June 1, 2001)

Question 103: My dad was very ill and had to retire early on disability. My mother quit her job to take care of him. My dad was told that, in the event of his death, my mom would get a widow's benefit and she would not be left without any means of support. My father died but my mother found out that she can't get a widow's benefit for two more years until she reaches 60. My dad paid into the railroad pension fund for over 30 years -- it just doesn't seem right that she can't get paid now when she really needs it. How are railroad widows too young to draw benefits supposed to get along without a widow's benefit?

Answer: Unfortunately, your mother's situation is not that uncommon. Railroad Retirement does provide above-average benefits for widows and widowers, but they must meet certain minimum age requirements to qualify.

Generally a widow must be at least 60 to get monthly benefits. There are two exceptions: a widow with a young child can qualify at any age; and a widow(er) who can not work at all because of a physical or mental condition can qualify for a disabled widow's benefit at 50.

Widows and widowers who are younger than 60 and who are not disabled(or do not have a young child) must look to other available resources and government programs for assistance. Certainly, returning to work is one option. To find out more about what is available in your mother's community, you might want to contact the local or state agency that administers the assistance programs.

I'm very sorry there's no quick or easy answer to your mother's plight. It does point out that even the best intentioned social insurance program does have some gaps in providing benefits. Every worker needs to get the most accurate information on what he and his family will receive in benefits upon retirement and death.

Important notice:

Answers are provided as general guidance on the subjects covered in the question and are not provided as legal advice to the questioner or to readers. Any legal issues should be reviewed by your legal counsel to apply the law to the particular facts of this and similar situations.

The law in this area changes frequently. Answers are believed to be correct as of the posting dates shown. The completeness or accuracy of a particular answer may be affected by changes in the law (statutes, regulations, rulings, court decisions, etc.) that occur after the date on which a particular Q&A is posted.

Copyright 1997-2017 Robert S. Kaufman
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