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Combined Benefits for Survivors
(Posted April 11, 2003)
Question 242: My late father first worked under Social Security and later worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He retired at 65 vested under both programs. He received both benefits until he recently died at 96. I'm my mother's repersentative payee. The local Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) office told me that my mother is not eligible for the $255 Lump Sum Death Benefit from SSA. I don't understand; if he worked under Social Security received monthly benefits from SSA, why can't my mother receive the lump sum?
Answer: A worker can become eligible for separate Railroad Retirement and Social Security benefits during his or her lifetime. But at death, the earnings under both programs are combined; only one of the two programs pays survivor benefits. It has been this way since 1946, when Railroad Retirement first began to pay monthly survivor benefits.
Your father last worked for a railroad before he retired, so the Railroad Retirement Board has the responsibility to pay all survivor benefits based on his combined earnings. Therefore your mother cannot receive the $255 lump sum death benefit from the Social Security Administration.
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