Governing Principles for Railroad Retirement Disability Pensions
Developed and Adopted By the Labor-Management Joint Committee On Railroad Retirement

Railroad employers and employees agree to fully cooperate with the Railroad Retirement Board’s obligation to secure the establishment of standards for determining the physical and mental conditions which permanently disqualify employees for work in their regular occupation. As a sign of this cooperation the parties agree that the system and procedures used by the Railroad Retirement Board for rating occupational railroad disability claims should be consistent with the following general principles:

1. Benefits must be awarded to qualified individuals who have a permanent physical and/or mental condition that renders them unable to perform one or more of the tasks of their regular occupation.

2. A qualified individual who has been medically disqualified by the railroad employer cannot fail to qualify for a disability benefit from the Railroad Retirement Board unless “no person would reasonably conclude” that the employee is disabled.

3. There cannot be instances where a qualified individual who meets the Social Security criteria for total and permanent disability fails to qualify for Railroad Retirement Disability Benefits.

4. The new system must apply prospectively only, and individuals originally judged under one set of standards must continue to be judged by those standards for purposes of reevaluation.

5. The new system must allow for a timely rating process and should be designed to achieve the existing customer service standard of 120 days review.

6. The new system must be (a) cost-neutral to applicants, and (b) sensitive to increasing the agency’s costs. (Note: It was agreed to refer this issue back to Labor and Management if future budget pressures so warrant.)

7. The system must incorporate sound and up-to-date medical knowledge/practices.

8. Tests required of applicants must not be duplicative, nor more invasive, or burdensome than necessary to determine qualification for a disability benefit.

9. The new system developed must be complete, covering all occupations and all disabling conditions.

10. The new system must incorporate comprehensive job duty descriptions to assist the railroad disability staff in the decision making process. The rating process must consider all relevant information regarding the applicant’s job duties, including the vocational report.

11. The new system must incorporate multiple impairments, effects and medications and pain.

12. The evaluation process should assess functional status using a range of tools, and not rely primarily on the Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE).

13. The railroad disability assessment should take into account the worker’s statements and the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) from the treating physician.

The FELA lawyers of Yaeger & Jungbauer Barristers, PLC invite you to contact their office for further discussion of this topic concerning the principles of railroad disability. This article is designed for general information only and should be considered neither formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer client relationship.