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Misinformation About Impact of Railroad Retirement on Social Security Benefits
(Posted April 4, 2004)
Question 422: I understand that a woman who has worked for the past 30 years is not allowed to draw Social Security benefits if she is married to a railroader. Why is that? Yet a woman who has never worked can marry a railroader and get his retirement after one year of marriage?
Answer: I'm happy to tell you the information you've heard is not correct. A wife or husband of a rail worker can qualify for his or her own Social Security benefits. The only difference is that Social Security will send those payments through the Railroad Retirement Board for distribution each month.
It is true that Spouse benefits paid by either system are reduced by the amount of Social Security benefits to which the Spouse already is entitled due to his or her own work while covered by Social Security. The wife or husband of a rail worker is in exactly the same position as the wife or husband of a worker who is covered by the Social Security system.
There is an added bonus for the spouse of a rail worker, though. Railroad Retirement pays the spouse a Tier 2 benefit, which is something the Social Security system does not have. And the Tier 2 benefit is not reduced by the amount of the spouse's Social Security benefits, if any.
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