Question 31: My father worked for REA Express as a driver in the 1970's until they went out of business. My father has no information about his retirement plan or Social Security Benefits that he is entitled to and he can't seem to find out anything. Please let me know what direction to steer him in.
Answer: You should advise him to contact the local office of the United States Railroad Retirement Board. You can find the office serving the area he lives in by going to the RRB's WEB site at:
Also, see Q&A-9 of this column for more information.
The RRB office can tell him how much Railroad Service he has, whether or not he's vested, and if he is, when he'll be eligible for benefits and how much he'll get.
The only thing he needs to give them is his Social Security Number.
If he has 120 or more Service Months, he's vested. Otherwise, his Railroad Credits can be used by Social Security for benefits under that program. If he isn't vested, the RRB will refer him to the local Social Security Office. For your information, SSA's nationwide toll-free number is (800) 772-1213.
If your father ever worked for the Federal government, their retirement programs are administered by the Office of Personnel Management. Their toll-free number is (888) 767-6738.
If your father is a veteran, he may also be eligible for Veterans Benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Their toll-free number is (800) 827-1000.
After I posted the original answer to this question, a reader of the column called my attention to the fact that REA had a company pension plan for their employees in addition to Railroad Retirement coverage. The REA Pension Plan was terminated just after ERISA was enacted, and it was among the first plans to be assumed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the Federal entity established by ERISA to administer terminated pension plans. Your Father may have been covered by the REA plan in addition to Railroad Retirement. You can find out more information by contacting the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, 1200 K Street NW, Washington DC 20526. Their phone number is (202) 326-4110.
Your Father should be prepared to furnish the exact dates of employment with REA, the occupation(s) he worked in & the locations he worked at.
I want to thank the unidentified reader for bringing this possibility to my attention.