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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

When to Apply for Reduced Retirement Benefits

(Posted June 3, 2003)

Question 261: I'm 54 (born in November of 1949). I worked for the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe for 20 years. When can I apply for reduced retirement benefits? Also, I'm interested in survivor benefits because my ex-husband also was a railroad worker. We were married for more than 20 years. He died within the last 3 years. Am I eligible for any survivor's benefits as a divorced widow, and when should I apply for them?

Answer: You will be eligible to receive reduced retirement benefits in December of 2011, which is the first full month that you are age 62. Under current rules, you should apply with the RRB in the fall of 2011, 3 months before your benefit can begin.

At 62, your retirement benefit will be reduced by 25% from what you could receive if you waited until 66, which now is the "normal retirement age" under for people born in 1949.

You can receive a survivor benefit on your former husband's account as early as age 60, if you do not remarry by then. It will be paid either by Social Security or by Railroad Retirement, depending on which agency has responsibity for paying benefits to your late former husband's survivors. The amount will be the same, because a divorced former spouse does not receive a Tier 2 even if RRB pays the benefit.

Remember, when you begin to receive your own retirement, it will be reduced by your survivor benefit, so you will not receive the full amount of both benefits.

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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