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BenefitsLink > Q&A Columns >

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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Coverage of Publicly-Owned Railroads

(Posted August 20, 2000 and revised August 23, 2001)

Question 60: For six years I worked for a railroad owned by a state. The railroad didn't pay into the Railroad Retirement Fund or report my service to the Railroad Retirement Board, on the advice of the comptroller. I've filed an appeal with the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) to get credit for my six years so it can be added to the 20 years of other railroad work. Do I have a good case?

Answer: You have an excellent case if the facts are as you say.

The only publicly-owned railroad that is exempt from the Railroad Retirement System is the Alaska Railroad. That's because it was once owned by the Federal government and its employees were covered by the Civil Service system.

All other railroads in the United States-- both public and private-- are covered by Railroad Retirement. The coverage, reporting and tax requirements are mandatory by Federal law, and there are substancial penalities for non-compliance by an employer. The tax applies to state-owned railroads, notwithstanding the comptroller's advice. (By the way, I didn't know that comptrollers had legal training!)

You should pursue this issue with the RRB. The normal four year retroactivity in service reports shouldn't apply in your case because of the railroad's non-compliance.

Author's Note:
In August 2001, the inquirer reported that the Railroad Retirement Board members had granted his appeal & he will now receive full credit for his service.

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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