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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Rail Worker Survived by Divorced Wife--Any Other Benefits Payable?

(Posted June 15, 2001)

Question 108: Our father retired last year after 44 years of service. He only received his pension for seven months before he died. He and our mother were divorced for 15 years, and we know that she will be eligible for monthly benefits at 60. What will happen to the rest of my father's contribution to the Railroad Retirement Fund?

Answer: You have asked a good question!

Your mother will be eligible for a former spouse benefit at age 60. This benefit is limited to only the Tier 1 benefits, however. She cannot receive a Tier 2 benefit unless she was awarded a portion of your father's Tier 2 benefit in their divorce property settlement. Her benefit will be reduced by the amount of her own Social Security.

You father did pay Railroad Retirement taxes for a long time but the amounts were comparatively small until recent years. For example, for 2001, the maximum taxes paid by a worker earning at least $80,400 is a little over $9,000.

He and his survivors are guaranteed to receive at least as much in benefits as he paid in taxes from 1937 thru 1974. Because he only received 7 payments, the guaranty has not been satisified. It all depends how long your mother draws benefits and how much she receives. You can ask the Railroad Retirement Board how much of the guaranty amount remains and how long it will take your mother to exceed it.

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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