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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Benefits for Minor Children of Deceased Rail Worker

(Posted February 26, 2004)

Question 390: My brother-in-law died December 12, 2003. He worked for the railroad for about 10 years. His widow has two young children, and two grown children from a previous marriage. Who is entitled to the death benefit?

Answer: If your brother-in-law was vested for survivor benefits under Railroad Retirement, the Railroad Retirement Board will pay benefits for his children who are under 18. His adult children would not be eligible for benefits unless they had become disabled before age 22. To be vested, he would need to have had 10 years of railroad service (or 5 years of railroad service after 1995) and must have had a "Current Connection" with the railroad industry when he died.

If he worked for a railroad when he died, he probably had the required "Current Connection." If he had left the industry many years ago and then worked in nonrailroad employment for a substantial period, he probably wasn't vested, in which case Social Security would pay any survivor benefits based on his combined railroad and Social Security earnings.

The best place to start is with the local district office of the RRB. They can tell you if the RRB or SSA has the responsibility for paying survivor benefits.

If the RRB does, they will assist your sister-in law in applying for benefits for her children.

To find the office serving your area, go to the RRB link at the bottom of this Q&A.

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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