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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

How To Get Disability Payments Started

(Posted July 8, 2001)

Question 114: I have 15 years of railroad service but left several years ago. I became disabled in November 2000. I'm vested for both Railroad Retirement and Social Security. Do I have to file for both benefits or are they combined? How long do I have to wait until my payments start?

Answer: Your question raises a couple of important issues.

First of all, Railroad Retirement and Social Security try to coordinate the disability evaluation process. Ultimately, separate benefits are paid, but because the Railroad Retirement Tier 1 is fully reduced for Social Security there usually is no advantage in filing for both.

You should file at Railroad Retirement first. If they grant you a disability annuity, ask them if there's any advantage in filing at SSA. The reason to file at Railroad Retirement is because of Tier 2. You will receive a Tier 2 at RRB but not at SSA.

Railroad Retirement and Social Security both have a five month waiting period before benefits begin. The waiting period counts the full calendar months from the date your condition first prevented you from working. In many cases the waiting period is satisfied by the time the worker files for benefits.

There is another issue in your case. Usually payments cannot begin until paid sick leave benefits run out. So there may be a delay in starting your payments until you no longer receive sick leave.

You should contact the nearest local office of the Railroad Retirement Board to ask them for assistance in filing for a disability annuity. You can locate the office by using the RRB's website at

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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