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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Already Eligible and Not Working

(Posted March 31, 2004)

Question 419: After 34 years of service, I was placed on disability after bypass heart surgery. I will reach 65 in July. My wife is presently employed; she will be 65 next March. Am I eligible for any Railroad Retirement benefits yet?

Answer: With more than 30 years of service, you already are eligible for a full retirement annuity. You should contact the nearest office of the Railroad Retirement Board and file an application as soon as possible. (See the RRB link at the bottom of this Q&A.)

Time is important because if you've been out of work for more than 6 months, you can lose some past months' benefits. You wife also might be eligible for a Spouse annuity if she is does not have high earnings. The RRB will assist both of you with your applications. You will each need birth certificates and a certified copy of your marriage certificate.

The RRB can give each of you an estimate of your monthly payment. The formula for your Tier 1 benefit follows the Social Security formula and is quite complex. Your Tier 1 benefit is based on your lifetime earnings under Railroad Retirement and Social Security.
Your Tier 2 benefit is based on the 60 highest months of your railroad earnings.

Your wife will get 50% of your Tier 1 benefit minus any Social Security benefits she is entitled to. Your wife will get 45% of your Tier 2 benefit.

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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