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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Medicare For Disabled Rail Workers

(Posted October 13, 2003)

Question 318: I was a railroad engineer from 1976 to 1989. In 1998, I was injured in an auto accident and awarded a disability annuity from Railroad Retirement. But I've been denied early Medicare because I was disabled after 1992, the date I last qualified for a "Disability Freeze." Can you explain this?

Answer: In order for a Railroad Retirement Disability receiptant to receive Medicare before 65, the individual must meet all the requirements for disability that are prescribed by Social Security. There are basically two: (1) the current work requirement (also known as a "Period of Disability" or a "Disability Freeze") and (2) the requirement that the individual has a physical or mental condition that meets the definition of disability in the Social Security law.

To meet the current work requirement, a worker must have worked in 5 of the last 10 years before becoming disabled.

In your case, based on your work history, you last met the current work requirement in December 1992 but you didn't claim to become disabled until June 1997, more than 4 years later. So when you became disabled, it was already a long time after you regularly worked enough to meet the five in ten year requirement.

Since you didn't meet the current work requirement for a "disability freeze" period, it really doesn't matter how severe your condition is. Unlike Railroad Retirement, Social Security disability benefits are limited to workers who have a recent employment history. That's the basis for the requirement of at least 5 years of employment in the preceding 10 years before becoming disabled.

Because of this, you will not be eligible for Medicare until 65.

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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