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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

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.

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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