Railroad Retirement Act
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.
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.
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.
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; 1-877-772-5772. 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.