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

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Filing For Separate Social Security Benefits May Not Always Yield Higher Total Benefits

(Posted December 3, 2011)

Question 842: My dad was a retired railroad employee before he passed away in 1992. My mom collects a percentage of his pension. Is she entitled to Social Security benefits as well? She worked and paid into Social Security for 50 years.

Answer: Your mother certainly can apply for her Social Security. But her widow's annuity will be reduced by the amount of her monthly benefits. In many cases, there is no financial gain to file for a separate Social Security benefit. This often happens when the rail worker's career earnings are much larger than the spouse's. Your mother may have been advised this by the Railroad Retirement Board when she filed for widow's benefits.

I would suggest that you ask Social Security for an estimate of her monthly benefit and then contact the Railroad Retirement Board to see if there is any advantage in filing for Social Security.

Both agencies have toll-free numbers. SSA is (800) 772-1213; RRB is (877) 772-5772.

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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