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Not Every Disabled Rail Worker Qualifies for Early Medicare
(Posted October 9, 2000)
Question 64: My 47-year-old father receives a disability railroad retirement benefit. But according to the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), he is not eligible for Medicare until he's 65 because he became disabled after he last met the work requirement for early Medicare.
I don't completely understand why he can't get early Medicare. He worked for the railroad for 13 years until 1988. He was unemployed from 1988 to 1993 when he got a job as a janitor and was covered by Social Security. He remained in that job until he became disabled in 1998. According to the RRB, he last met the Medicare work requirement in 1992, six years before he became disabled.
Is the information from the RRB right?
Answer: Your father's situation points out the fact that some disabled rail workers cannot qualify for Medicare before 65 based on their disability.
The Medicare program requires that disabled rail workers meet the exact requirements for disability prescribed by the Social Security program. Social Security has somewhat different reqirements for detemining disability. Most, but not all, disabled rail workers qualify for early Medicare.
Often this happens when a disabled rail worker qualifies for the more liberal "Occupational Disability Annuity" and his or her medical condition is not severe enough to qualify under the more strict Social Security criteria.
In your father's case, it appears that he did not meet the past work credits requirement when he became disabled in 1998.
Your father should request the RRB to review and reconsider its decision. He should ask the RRB specifically to determine whether his work as a janitor was considered in the decision. He needs to make this request in writing as soon as he can, because the RRB has strict time limits on making reconsiderations.
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