Railroad Retirement Frequently Asked Questions

June 15,2010
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Q. What are Railroad Retirement Disability Benefits?

A. Railroad Retirement Disability Benefits are benefits administered through the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) for any qualifying rail worker who becomes disabled and unable to work. Throughout their work history, rail workers contribute through payroll deductions and taxes to the railroad retirement system, as does the railroad itself. If you qualify, you may draw on these benefits if you become disabled, just as you would when you retire.

Q. How do I know if I am eligible for Railroad Retirement Disability Benefits?

A. The standards are different depending on whether you are applying for Occupational Disability Benefits or Total Disability Benefits, but for both you must have worked for one or more railroad for a specified amount of time, be permanently disabled, and be medically unable to perform either your usual railroad occupation or any work at all.

Q. What is the difference between Occupational Disability Benefits and Total Disability Benefits?

A. There are several differences in requirements and benefits for Occupational Disability Benefits as opposed to Total Disability Benefits. For a detailed analysis of these programs, please click HERE.

Q. How long should I wait before I apply for Railroad Retirement Disability Benefits?

A. You should file a claim for Railroad Retirement Benefits as soon as it becomes apparent that you will not be able to work. Claims can take many months to process, and the sooner you apply, the sooner you will begin receiving benefits.

Q. Do I need an attorney to apply for Railroad Retirement Disability Benefits?

A. No. You can apply on your own. However, claimants who are represented by an experienced attorney are far more likely to succeed than those who are not.

At Hermann Law Group, we have over a 95% success rate in the Railroad Disability Claims we handle. We have the knowledge and experience to help win your claim and maximize your benefits, and we can offer you the support that you need during this stressful, difficult time.

Q. What will an attorney do for me?

A. At Hermann Law Group, we will review or help you to complete all necessary forms. We will contact your doctors and other health care providers in order to collect all the necessary medical information required to prove your case. We will deal with the Railroad Board on your behalf, and make sure that your case moves through the system as quickly as possible. If your case is appealed to a hearing, we will develop your claims file and make sure that you are fully prepared to testify. We will always be available to answer your questions and provide advice regarding various benefits to which you may be entitled. We will also review your benefits once they are awarded, and make sure that you continue to receive your benefits so long as you are unable to work.

Different attorneys will provide you with different levels of service. The basic job of your attorney is to prove to the Railroad Retirement Board, based on medical evidence, why you cannot work, and to advocate for you to receive the benefits to which you are entitled.

Q. How do I pay my attorney?

A. You and your attorney will agree on a fee which you pay directly. While, under the Railroad Retirement Act, the Board does not set attorney fees, after a fee is agreed upon by a claimant and attorney, that fee must be submitted to the Railroad Retirement Board for approval.

At Hermann Law Group, we take a fee only if you win your claim.

In order to help our clients manage their benefits & simplify fee payments we offer a FREE debit account. For more information click here!

Q. How long will my benefits last?

A. Your benefits will last until you reach full retirement age and your Railroad age–and–service annuity begins, or until you are no longer disabled. If you return to work and are able to hold a job, the Railroad Retirement Board will consider your disability to have ended whether or not there has been a substantial improvement in your medical condition.

Q. Can I receive Railroad Retirement Disability Benefits along with other benefits, such as Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability?

A. Absolutely. While the Railroad Retirement Board is separate from the Social Security Administration, the two systems coordinate earnings records, payments of benefits, and taxes paid. Often the Railroad Retirement benefits are greater than those that can be obtained under Social Security.

Depending on your years of Railroad service, if you have earnings subject to Social Security Disability withholding, the Railroad Retirement Board will credit those earnings when calculating your total annuity. If you do not have sufficient years of service to be eligible for Railroad Retirement benefits, your railroad earnings will be applied towards Social Security eligibility.

By contrast, Railroad Retirement benefits and Long Term Disability are mutually exclusive, and you can receive full benefits from both at the same time, though subject to any offsets imposed by your LTD carrier.

Q. Am I allowed to do any work while I receive Railroad Retirement Disability Benefits?

A. Any work activity may make your disability subject to scrutiny. Whether or not your medical condition substantially improves, if you do return to work then regardless of your earnings the Railroad Retirement Board may consider you to be “medically recovered,” and therefore no longer eligible for benefits.

At Hermann Law Group, we urge our clients to tell us when they are considering returning to work, so that we can discuss the implications with them, and help them plan accordingly.

Q. What is the “waiting period” for Railroad Retirement Benefits?

A. From the onset date of your disability, you must wait 5 months until your disability annuity payments may begin. This is known as the “waiting period,” and it is extremely important to make sure that all dates are calculated accurately in your claim, so that you can begin to collect payment as soon as possible.

At Hermann Law Group, we carefully review all documentation from your treating physicians and other medical sources, in order to make sure that your onset date is correct, and to start the “clock” ticking as early as possible.

Q. What is a “spouse annuity”?

A. If you receive disability benefits through the Railroad Retirement Board, your spouse may also be eligible for benefit payments, especially if he or she is caring for your child. Similarly, your children might be eligible for increased benefits based on your specific circumstances. The qualifications for “spouse annuity” can be quite complicated, so it is best to consult with your attorney to see if your situation satisfies the eligibility requirements.