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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Additional Vesting Requirement for Survivor Benefits

(Posted February 21, 1999)

Question 18: My dad worked for the Railway Express Agency (REA) for 29 years before REA went bankrupt. Five years later (1979), he was killed in an auto accident. My mother was only 51 at the time & didn't qualify for a widow's benefit. She remarried at 56. I have 2 questions:

(1) Was his family entitled to any lump sum death denefits?

(2) If my mother's second husband dies, will she then be entiled to monthly benefits on my dad's record?


Answer: You first need to understand the vesting requirements for death benefits. In addition to 10 years of Rail sevice, the deceased rail worker must have a "current employment connection with the Rail industry. Usually a rail worker who retires or dies working for a railroad mets this requirement. In your dad's case, he may not have met this requirement because of the five year interval between leaving REA & his fatal accident. If durning that interval he worked outside the railroad industry & had more than a few hundred dollars in earnings, he did not meet the requirement. So, Social Security would be responsible for paying monthly and lumpsum benefits to you mother. Those benefits would however be based on your dad's combined Railroad Retirement & Social Security credits.

There is one lump-sum death benefit which may be payable under Railroad Retirement in your father's case. It's called a"Residual Lump-Sum" and repersents a refund of his Railroad Retirement payroll taxes from 1937 through 1974. Normally a widow has to elect this payment before age 60. However, if your mother was never afforded the opportunity to make such an election, the Railroad Retirement Board should give her the election choice now. I suggest that you contact the local Railroad Retirement office & ask about the Residual Lump-Sum.

If your mother's current husband dies, she should ask Social Security if her widow's benefit would be higher on your dad's record.

Robert S. Kaufman

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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