Question 671: I am a 50-year-old male who has worked for the railroad for 11 years. The RRB denied my disability claim; my surgeon (who performed back surgery once, which was not successful) thinks I should have additional back surgery. He submitted a letter stating that I am totally disabled and cannot work at any job. I have been trying to handle the claim on my own. The RRB seems to be going only by their own doctor's test results that determine that I cannot do my railroad job but I am able to to do some light duty job for 6 hours a day. I guess I need a lawyer.
Answer: You certainly could hire a lawyer to represent you. The lawyer could make sure the RRB followed its procedures for deciding your claim, tell you if you have the ability to submit additional medical evidence of your disability, file papers on time and in the right place, and argue on your behalf that your factual situation falls within the legal meaning of disability, as that term is defined in the RRB disability plan. You are not required to use the services of a lawyer, however.
For all claims under the Railroad Retirement Act there is a three-stage review and appeals process within the RRB. I'll describe the first two stages here.
First, a request for reconsideration of your claim can be made to the RRB unit that denied your claim, subject to a strict deadline: 60 days from the date of the denial. This step is mandatory before you can appeal to the RRB?s Bureau of Hearings and Appeals.
If your request for reconsideration does not result in a decision in your favor, you can appeal to the RRB?s Bureau of Hearings and Appeals, which is independent of the units responsible for reconsideration decisions. You must appeal within 60 days from the date of the decision made on your request for reconsideration. An oral hearing may be held under certain circumstances. This hearing may be in person, conducted by telephone or, in some cases, by video conferencing.