Railroad Retirement Board:
Providing Many Benefits for Railroad Workers
By Lou Jungbauer,
Partner at YJB
The Railroad Retirement Act is a unique Federal law that applies only to railroad workers. It is administered by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), with three members appointed by the President of the United States: one labor, one management, and one neutral. The RRB administers programs that provide sickness benefits, retirement annuities, Medicare, unemployment, and disability benefits. This article will highlight a few key points about the Railroad Retirement Act.
Creditable Months: Critical to receiving benefits administered by the RRB is the number of months in which a railroader has received pay for wages or vacation. Each railroad reports this information annually to the RRB which in turn sends employees a document called a BA-6 card. This card reports the creditable months earned. It is wise to keep track of the creditable months to be sure they are accurately reported on your behalf.
Sickness Benefits: An employee off work due to illness or injury can collect sickness benefits. The length of time for which these benefits may be paid depends on the number of creditable months earned. Generally, the longer an employee works for a railroad, the longer sickness benefits will be available. In the event of a personal injury settlement, any sickness benefits are repayable to the Board.
Disability Annuity: If an employee is injured and unable to return to work, he or she may be eligible for a disability annuity. Employees must have at least 120 but less than 240 creditable months to be eligible for a total disability. Totally disabled workers are physically unable to perform any gainful employment. The Board makes decisions on this based on medical reports from an employee's own doctors and may send the individual to a special doctor designated by the Board.
If an employee has 240 or more creditable months, the employee is eligible to apply for an occupational disability. It requires only that the individual be unable to return to his/her regular job on the railroad.
Regular Retirement: The Board also administers "age and service annuities" for employees with at least ten years of creditable service. Generally, these start at age 60 or 62 and the retirement age will gradually increase over the coming years. The amount of the annuity depends on the years of service an employee has.
The Railroad Retirement Act contains many complex provisions and it is a good idea to call a local RRB office before making decisions concerning any of the programs. Valuable publications are also available. The RRB has a free 24 hour Help Line; 1-800-808-0772. You can locate the Board's nearest regional office and get other information by calling that number, reviewing the Board's website: www.rrb.gov or writing to the Board at U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, 844 North Rush Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611-2092.
Updated information Winter 2009: The Railroad Retirement Board has started to implement a new reorganization of its field offices into area networks. Some networks are already in effect and the rest will follow soon. Supposedly, when a person calls the new number, it will transfer that call to the nearest office that is available, even if it is not the local office. They have a new nationwide phone number, which is 1-877-772-5772. At this time if someone calls the local office number and gets a recording that it is no longer in service, they will have to call the 877 number.
The FELA lawyers of Yaeger & Jungbauer Barristers, PLC invite you to contact their office for further discussion of this topic. This article is designed for general information only and should be considered neither formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer client relationship.