Question 265: My wife is a disabled former Amtrak employee. She receives an Occupational Disability Annuity from Railroad Retirement. She will receive early Medicare in a few months. When she turns 60, can she convert to regular retirement and get full benefits for herself and me(as her spouse)?
Answer: Actually, your wife receives a full benefit now, so there would be no advantage to her to convert to a regular 60/30 retirement benefit. If she has 30 years of credits, you will be eligible for a spouse benefit when you are both 60. All she has to do is "relinquish" any reemployment rights she holds with Amtrak in order for you to be eligible.
NOTE: I received a follow-up question from this worker's husband that indicated there would be an advantage in private health insurance coverage if his disabled wife could convert to a 60/30 benefit at age 60.
First of all, once a disability annuity is awarded, it is not a simple matter for the beneficiary to change to a retirement benefit later on. The RRB usually requires the "cancellation" of the disability claim and full repayment of all benefits before a new claim for retirement benefits can be filed. Your wife would have to repay perhaps thousands of dollars in disability payments she has received.
As for early Medicare, almost all disabled beneficiares can receive Medicare coverage before 65. Your wife can decline Part B coverage, but she needs to fully check her private health insurance coverage if she does.
It would be a good idea for you and your wife to contact the local RRB district office and discuss your concerns with them. Their staff is up-to-date on how the railroad health insurance plans coordinate with Railroad Retirement and Medicare coverage.