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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Impact of Federal Retirement on Railroad Retirement

(Posted February 25, 2002)

Question 161: My husband left railroad employment with 11 years of service to go to work for the Federal government. He's covered by the newer Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) and by Social Security. He expects to have at least 30 years of Federal service when he retires. I am a Federal employee also but I am covered by the original Civil Service Retirment System (CSRS). I also expect to have 30 years at retirement. I have the following questions about the interplay between Railroad Retirement, FERS & CSRS: (1) Will my husband receive anything from Railroad Retirement? (2) Will I be eligible for a spouse benefit from Railroad Retirement even though I will receive a substantial "Public Pension" from CSRS?

Answer: There are special provisions of law that come into play when people are eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement AND a "public pension" like FERS and CSRS.

One is called the "Windfall Provision," which requires that Social Security and Tier 1 Railroad Retirement benefit be computed under a lower formula unless the worker has 35 or more years of credits. In your husband's case, the provision is waived because he is covered by the FERS retirement program. So he will qualify for FERS, Social Security & Railroad Retirement. Of course, his Tier 1 will be reduced by the amount of his Social Security but he will receive a full Tier 2.

The other provision is called the "Public Pension Offset," which applies to wives, husbands, widows and widowers who are entitled to a public pension. Their Social Security and Tier 1 Railroad Retirement benefits are reduced by 2/3 of their monthly public pension. The Public Pension Offset will apply to your spouse benefit but only to the Tier 1 portion. You will receive a full Tier 2 as a spouse.

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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