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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Working for Federal Railroad Administratioin

(Posted January 25, 2006)

Question 569: I am currenty employed with the railroad. I have 33 years of service. I have applied for employment with the Federal Railroad Administration as a safety inspector. Am I entitled to full Railroad Retirement benefits at age 60? Would I break my currrent connection? If so, what are the consequences for breaking the current connection? Will my wife lose any of her spouse benefits? If I were to become disabled before reaching 60, will I still be eligible for an Occupational Disability Annuity?

Answer: Normally, substantial employment outside of the railroad industry could break a worker's current connection. However, working for certain railroad related Federal agencies & departments including the Department of Transportation (which the Federal Railroad Administration is a part of) is permitted by the Railroad Retirement Act. Your employment with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will not have any affect of your current connection with the railroad industry.

By retaining your Current Connection, you will still be eligible for an Occupation Disability Annuity if you become disabled before you are eligible for full retirement benefits. And RRB (not SSA) will pay survivor benefits after your death.

With more than 30 years of rail service, you will qualify for full retirement benefits at 60. However, if you continue your employment with FRA past age 60, your Tier 1 (the portion of your Railroad Retirement benefit that is like Social Security) will be subject to earnings restrictions until you reach your full retirement age. For 2006, you would lose $1 in Tier 1 for each $2 you earn above $12,480. The exempt amount is adjusted each year.

Your Tier 2 (the portion of your Railroad Retirement benefit that is like a private industry pension), will be subject to a special earnings restriction for continuing in "Last Person Employment" and you could lose up to half of it each month.

You should contact the local office of the Railroad Retirement Board three months before your 60th birthday for assistance in filing for retirement benefits. They can also give you an estimate of what you and your wife will receive.

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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