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Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman
Estimating Future Survivor Benefits
(Posted March 2, 2003)
Question 224: How can my mother get an accurate estimate of the widow's benefit she could receive if my stepfather dies before she does?
My stepfather does not have a "Current Connection," so any survivor benefits will be paid by Social Security based on his combined earnings under Railroad Retirement and Social Security. I've gotten the runaround from both Railroad Retirement and Social Security. Each agency referred me to the other; neither one wants to help us with this problem. The prevailing wisdom seems to be wait until my stepfather dies. He feels awkward in pressing the subject but I feel it's essental for my mother to know her financial situation in the event of her husband's death.
Answer: We've got to get beyond this bureaucratic quagmire! In my opinion, both agencies have a responsibility to your family to help provide information needed for future planning.
Here's what I suggest. Call the local RRB office and give them a final opportunity to furnish your stepfather with the information in writing. I'm suggesting the RRB office over the SSA office because the RRB already has the record of your stepfather's combined earnings, and they have done some of the calculations that will yield your mother's future SSA widow's benefit.
If they still balk at doing it, calmly explain that you're planning to contact your Congressman in order to ask him to intercede on your family's behalf. Then call your local Congressional office and ask to talk to the Social Security/Railroad Retirement staffer. I hope the information is forthcoming!
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