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Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman
Deterred From Filing
(Posted April 29, 2002)
Question 175: Both of my parents started working in the railroad industry before 1975. My mom had 12 years of credits; my dad had 32. When my dad retired many years ago, he was told that only he could collect benefits.
Two months ago he died suddenly. Just before his death, he found out the information he had relied on was wrong, and that my mom could collect two benefits, one based on her work and one as my dad's wife. But the RRB is only willing to pay retoactive benefits to my mom for 6 months, not the many years she was entitled to benefits but did not apply because of the incorrect information.
Isn't the RRB responsible for the great loss in benefits? What can we do to claim the benefits beyound the six months?
Answer: The RRB does honor a claim for lost benefits when it can be proved that an otherwise eligible person is deterred from filing because of erronous information. But the proof is often hard to establish because the erronous information may not be documented in writing.
You should ask the RRB district office where your dad first filed if their records have any information about their advice to him about your mom's eligibility when your dad filed. Don't expect too much. Most records held in the local office are brief and are discarded after a year. The master paper files are kept in the Chicago headquarters but only rarely do they have background information about claim development.
If the local office has no evidence in the files, you can request that the master file be sent to the local office for your inspection. You also can ask the local office to question the RRB repersentative who helped your dad file his claim if he or she can remember the advice given to your dad when he filed.
If these efforts fail to find any written evidence that your mom was deterred in filing a timely application, you may want to consult an attorney who is familiar with social insurance or pensions.
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