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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Vested But Leaving the Railroad Before Reaching Retirement Age

(Posted August 27, 2001)

Question 132: If I am vested but resign from the railroad, do my credits "roll over" to Social Security? If not, are my Railroad Retirement credits of any value to me or will I just get Social Security when I retire?

Answer: Once you are vested for Railroad Retirement, you will be eligible for a seperate Railroad Retirement benefit even if you permently leave the railroad industry and work for an employer covered by the Social Security program.

Vesting currently requires 10 years (120 calendar months of railroad work). If certain proposed legislation (H.R. 1140) is enacted into law, the vesting requirement will drop to 5 years (60 calendar months of railroad work) for workers who have at least 5 years of rail work after 1995.

The retirement benefit consists of two parts or tiers. Tier 1 is like a "social security benefit" based on your combined earnings under both programs. If you elect to receive a seperate Social Security benefit, the Tier 1 will be reduced by whatever you receive from Social Security, and the Railroad Retirement Board will pay you both benefits.

Tier 2 is a railroad industry pension benefit, which is based on your railroad earnings only.

If you become disabled before reaching normal retirement age, you can qualify for a disability annuity.

At your death, only one program will pay your eligible survivors even if you are vested under both. The Railroad Retirement Board determines which program pays survivor benefits based on your "current connection" status with the railroad industry.

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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