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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Disability from Railroad Retirement and Social Security

(Posted January 7, 2005)

Question 536: I am disabled. I receive disability benefits from both Railroad Retirement and Social Security.

I work part-time as a small engine mechanic for a non-profit organization. I get approximately $7,500 per year from my part-time job.

In May 1974, I quit the railroad and after 10-1/2 years. I then worked for an electric utility company until 1986 when I injured my back on the job and became totally disabled. I never worked again until July of 2001 when I started my part-time job.

I contacted the local Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) office and their Chicago headquarters. I sent them copies of my checks and job description. They never answered my correspondance or deducted anything from my disabliltly checks.

I will reach full retirement age in April 2005. If I stay working for the same company, I understand that I will be penalized no matter what my age as long as I work for the same company.

How much will they take out of my check after I reach full retiement age? Would I have to quit my present job before retirement age to get my full benefits?

Answer: For people who were born in 1939 (like you and me), the normal retirement age is 65 and 4 months. So you are still covered by the unique disability work restrictions of Railroad Retirement until May 2005.

All employment activities must be reported promptly to the RRB. The RRB must then review your physical condition to determine if your job activities are consistent with your disability. If they are, your employment is subject to special earnings limits.

If you are earning $7,500 a year, your earnings are considerably higher then the upper limit that disabled workers are permitted to earn without losing any benefits.

The current rules have a $4800 annual maximum. Above that, you lose one month's payment's for each $400 that you earn. And there is a severe penalty for failing to timely report your earnings to the RRB.

You said that you previously reported you work activities & your earnings to the RRB but you never hear anything from them. You need to contact the RRB immediately and ask them to review your claim taking your current work activities and earnings into account. You might have been overpaid a significant amount since you started to work.

I recommend starting with the RRB District Office. If you don't get satisfaction there, you should contact the RRB's headquarters in Chicago.

If the RRB was aware of your situation but failed to take the appropriate action, you might not be responsible for a portion of any overpayment.

In answer to your question about "restricted" employment once you reach normal retirement age, your current part time job is not considered as "Last Person Employment." This is because your work began many years after your disability annuity started. Therefore, if you continue working there once you reach normal retirement age, it will have no effect on your Tier 2. At that time, there are no other annual earnings restrictions.

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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