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Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman
How To Find Out If You're Eligible for a Disability Benefit
(Posted June 13, 2004)
Question 463: I am a railroad employee and have been working in my craft for 13 years. I am what has been termed extremely obese. It is becoming increaseingly difficult to get around and to perform just basic day to day functions. I am in constant pain with my legs. I cannot get dressed without assistance. My question is, do I qualify for disability? What amount would I be able to draw? I also have 2 young children, a 9 year old and a 12 year old. Would they be eligible to draw any benefits if I was unable to work and did qualify for disability?
Answer: Because you didn't give your age, I'll assume that you are under 60. With less than 20 years of rail service, you cannot qualify for Occupational Disability. You will need to meet the more stringant requirements for Total & Permanent Disability.
The biggest question is, can your physical condition be corrected through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise or through surgery? If it can be, it will be much more difficult to demonstrate that you are "disabled for any regular employment."
At the point that you no longer believe that you can work at any job (railroad or other), you should file for a Disability Annuity with the local District Office of the Railroad Retirement Board(RRB). There is a 5-month waiting period from the onset of your disability. As an active rail worker, you might be able to receive Sickness Benefits while you're waiting for your annuity to start.
You can ask the RRB for an estimate of your monthly benefits even before you're ready to file for benefits. Be sure to ask them for the rate including your two minor children. While they cannot get their own benefits, they can increase your payments under the special SSA minimum guarantee.
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