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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

25 Years of Rail Service; 'Current Connection'?

(Posted August 22, 2003)

Question 302: Will you please explain the difference between having 25 years of rail service and having a "current connection" on the one hand, and having 24 years of service but not having a "current connection" on the other hand? How would this impact Survivor Benefits for a spouse?

Answer: A rail worker needs a "current connection" to qualify for the following Railroad Retirement benefits:

  • Occupational employee disability annuity
  • Supplemental Employee Annuity (a minimum of 25 years of rail work is also needed)
  • All types of monthly survivor benefits

For the definition and an explanation of how a worker has or does not have a "current connection" please see Q&A 207 and Q&A 219 of this column.

In addition, there is a "deemed" current connection involving 25 years of rail service. If a rail worker is involuntary terminated after 25 years of service through no fault of his/her own, and the worker did not refuse an offer of continued railroad employment, then the worker's current connection is maintained regardless of future earnings.

Without a current connection, a worker has to become totally & permanently disabled for all work activities to receive a disability annuity; with one, a disability annuity can be paid if the worker is only disabled for his/her regular job.

The loss of a Supplemental Annuity can reduce monthly benefits at retirement by as little as $23 or as much as $43.

Without a current connection, the worker's eligible survivors will be paid by Social Security rather than by Railroad Retirement. This will result in lower monthly benefits since the survivors will not receive a Tier 2 benefit from Social Security as they would from Railroad Retirement.

Without 25 years of service, a rail worker can not qualify for a "deemed" current connection nor for a Supplemental Employee Annuity.

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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