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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Tier 2 Benefits For Spouses and Widow(er)s

(Posted June 30, 2001)

Question 112: I'm married to a railroad worker with 32 years of pension credits. I'm 62 and retired. I draw reduced Social Security benefits. My husband turns 60 in 2002; he plans on taking his pension then. My own Social Security is more than what I could get as a spouse's Tier 1 benefit. According to the Railroad Retirement Board, that means I will not receive a spouse's Tier 1. What will I get as a
Tier 2 as a wife and as a widow? What if we are divorced? Assume my husband will have a "current connection" and is vested for survivor benefits.

Answer: As a wife, your Tier 2 benefit will be 45% of your husband's Tier 2 benefit.

As a widow, your Tier 2 benefit will increase to 50%. And you will continue to receive at least as much as a widow as you did as a wife in the month before your husband died. Also, pending legislation, if enacted into law, would increase a widow's Tier 2 benefit to 100%.

If the event of divorce, you cannot receive either a Tier 2 benefit as a divorced wife or as a surviving former wife (widow). But you can receive a portion of his Tier 2 benefit as part of the property settlement in a divorce decree. The Tier 2 benefit division has to meet specific requirements of the Railroad Retirement Board's regulations. Most divorce attorneys are familiar with those requirements; the local office of the Railroad Retirement Board can assist you and your attorney in seeing than the requirements are met.

As a divorced wife, you will be eligible for a Tier 1 benefit, but because of the size of your own Social Security benefit, you will not receive any of 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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