Under the Railroad Retirement Act, railroad workers who become disabled are eligible to collect disability annuities. However, there are different types of disability, different levels of benefits available based on past railroad service and confusing application procedures, which often result in a denial of benefits. New York railroad retirement lawyers can be of great value in explaining the process and providing the best opportunity for approval of benefits.
Total Disability vs. Occupational Disability
To be eligible for total disability benefits, an individual must be determined to be permanently unable to perform the work tasks required for any regular and gainful employment, not merely unable to perform their regular railroad work. Permanent means that the disability has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or result in death.
In contrast, New York railroad retirement lawyers will explain that an occupational disability is an impairment that prevents the worker from performing the job duties of their regular railroad occupation, but they may be able to do other types of work.
The term “regular railroad occupation” means either:
• The work the individual performed for more calendar months in the last five years than any other work; or
• The work the individual performed for one half of all the months in the last 15 years.
Total disability is available for railroad workers at any age with at least 10 years of service. In some cases, total disability may be available for railroad employees with five years of service after 1995. However, the individual must have what New York railroad retirement lawyers indicate as a disability status under Social Security law. This involves a calculation of whether the worker has earned sufficient work credits in recent years to qualify.
Occupational disability annuities may be available for a worker at age 60 if the individual has 10 years of service or at any age with 20 years of service. Additionally, New York railroad retirement lawyers emphasize that eligibility for occupational disability requires what is known as a “current connection” with the railroad industry. In most cases, a current connection is established if the individual worked in the railroad industry in 12 of the last 30 months preceding the disability.
Tier 1 and Tier 2 Benefits
Many railroad employees qualify for two levels of benefits. Tier 1 benefits are similar in amount to Social Security benefits and are payable based on both railroad income and income from Social Security jobs, and Tier 2 benefits are based solely on the individual’s railroad earnings.
The Appeals Process
A claimant who is dissatisfied with the result of their application for disability benefits may appeal that decision. Not only can denials be appealed but New York railroad retirement attorneys may also appeal the decision regarding the amount of the monthly benefit. Determining what disability means is often disputed and the rules regarding Tier 1 and Tier 2 benefits are complex.
Contact New York Railroad Retirement Attorneys for Legal Advice
If you have worked in the railroad industry and have an impairment that prevents you from earning a living, you need to understand your rights. For a free case evaluation, call Hermann Law Group, PLLC, at 1-877-773-3030.