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Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman
Senior Widow With Issues About Her Annuity
(Posted January 17, 2014)
Question 1100: I am 81. My husband worked 36 years (union) before he took a buy-out the railroad offered him to save working another year. Our pension together was $3,600 a month. He died in 2005 and now I receive only his pension of $2,313 (monthly). The Railroad Retirement Board has sent me a letter every year since 2005 stating I will not receive a Cost of Living increase. Each year the Medicare premium tends to increase. Is there any other way to increase this pension or will the government keep decreasing my pension until I am on Social Security? Who is a good railroad pension attorney? Can I opt to take a lump sum pension instead of monthly?
Answer: The Railroad Retirement Act was amended in 2001 to increase the Widow's Annuity rate from 80% to 100% of their deceased husband's annuity. However, many widows like yourself already were receiving more than 100% due to the annual cost-of-living increases. The amendment required the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) to withhold future cost-of-living increases until the 100% rate was equal to the 80% rate plus the cost-of-living increases. You will then begin receiving those annual increases again.
You cannot receive a lump sum payment of your Widow's Annuity instead of monthly payments. To find an attorney to represent you with the RRB, you should contact the local bar association and ask for a list of qualified attorneys.
This Q&A marks another milestone in this column with the posting of the 1,100th question. I want to thank the loyal readers to the column for submitting very interesting questions.
I also want to thank John Baer, a former executive of the Railroad Retirement Board, for his technical assistance.
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