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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Medically Disqualified by Railroad

(Posted November 8, 2003)

Question 328: I am 49 years old; I have been working for the railroad as engineer since 1975. My last hearing test during recertification revealed that I have considerable hearing loss. The examiner told me if I were to lose 10% more of my hearing I would not meet the standards set and hence could not work as an engineer. Would I qualify for disability? Would I qualify for Medicare? Could I get a part-time job and still draw Railroad Retirement?

Answer: If you are disqualified by the railroad because of your hearing loss, you should be eligible for an occupational disability annuity from Railroad Retirement. This is because you appear to have more than 20 years of service and a "Current Connection."

Once you have received disability benefits for two years, you may or may not be eligible for Medicare depending upon how severe your hearing loss becomes. In order for an occupational disability beneficary to get Medicare before 65, the disabled worker must meet the more strict Social Security standards for "total and permanent" disability. Railroad Retirement and Social Security would review your claim jointly to see if you qualify for Medicare, and they would advise you of their decision.

If you plan to work after you begin to receive a disability annuity, you will need to notify the RRB promptly so they can review your condition and see whether the work activity is consistent with continuing your disability annuity payments. If it is, you will be subject to special earnings limits:

  • Your annuity is not payable for any month in which you earn more than $400 in any employment or net self-employment, exclusive of work-related expenses;
  • Withheld payments will be restored if earnings for the year are less than $5,000 after deduction of disability-related work expenses. Otherwise, the annuity is subject to a deduction of one months benefit for each multiple of $400 earned over $4,800 (the last $200 or more of earnings over $4,800 count as $400); and

  • Failure to report such earnings timely could involve a penalty charge in addition to the loss of monthly 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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