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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Former Spouse Of Rail Worker Who Died Before Receiving Railroad Retirement

(Posted August 27, 2005)

Question 555: I am divorcing my second husband; it should be final in about a month. I have a heart condition; my doctor says I should apply for disability benefits from my state government employer.

I was married to my first husband for 24 years. He was a rail worker since 1960. He was disabled due to lung cancer in 2000. He was declared disabled, and died 3 days later. He died without drawing a disability check.

The divorce decree ending my first marriage states that I receive Railroad Retirement according to its rules. Will I be able to draw from my first husband's Railroad Retirement if I do become disabled? Or does my being remarried (and then divorced) prevent it?

Also, does interest income from CDs affect any amount I would receive? Would rental income?

Answer: Unfortunately, your first husband died before he received any Railroad Retirement benefits. Therefore the agreement in your divorce decree to pay you a portion of his Railroad Retirement will not provide any benefits for you.

After your divorce becomes final, you may be entitled to Railroad Retirement benefits on account of your first husband, as a former divorced wife. This benefit is provided by law, not your divorce decree. To receive this benefit, you must be at least 62 and remain unmarried. This benefit will be reduced if you also receive any Social Security benefits. If your Social Security benefits are high enough, you might not actually receive anything from Railroad Retirement.

Neither Railroad Retirement nor Social Security benefits' earning limits are affected by "passive" income such as interest on bank deposits or income from rental property.

You should contact the nearest office of the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) anf ask for an estimate of what you will receive when you become 62. You can find the RRB office serving your area by going to the RRB web site at:

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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