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Different Vesting Rules for Retirement and Death Benefits
(Posted August 30, 2000)
Question 61: I'll have 30 years of rail work at age 55. Can I leave rail work and get a job covered by Social Security without losing my Railroad Retirement benefits at age 60 (60/30)? What happens if I lose my "Current Connection" with Railroad Retirement before age 60?
Answer: There are different vesting rules for retirement and death benefits under Railroad Retirement. A "Current Connection" is needed for death benefits but not for retirement benefits. With 30 years of rail work, you will qualify for Railroad Retirement at age 60 even if you lose your "Current Connection" between 55 and 60. But your widow will have to look to Social Security for any survivor benefits based on your rail work.
A "Current Connection" determination is made by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)in every case when a Railroad worker dies with at least 10 years of rail work. If the deceased worker has one, the RRB pays survivor benefits based on combined Railroad & Social Security earnings. If the worker did not have one, then SSA pays all survivor benefits.
To determine a Current Connection, the RRB first finds the last 12 calendar months in which the worker had railroad earnings, within a 30 month period. The RRB then determines when the 30 month period ends. Social Security earnings before the end of the 30 month period do not destroy a Current Connection. But substantial earnings under the Social Security program between the end of the 30 month period and either the date of death or the date retirement benefits begin will end one.
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