Railroad Retirement Disability Benefits

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

What is Railroad Retirement Disability?

There are two types of Railroad Retirement Disability.

One is a total disability annuity. To qualify for a total disability annuity, you must not be able to do any kind of work. You must also have enough years of creditable service. You may qualify if you have 5-9 years of creditable railroad service after 1995 and you meet Social Security earnings requirements. Otherwise, you must have at least 10 years of creditable railroad service.

The second type of Railroad Retirement Disability is an occupational disability annuity. To qualify for an occupational disability annuity, you must be disabled from doing your own regular railroad occupation. Occupational disability can be awarded at any age if you have at least 20 years of railroad service. Otherwise, you must be at least 60 years old and have 10 years of railroad service.

What is the Amount of the Benefit?

The amount of Railroad Retirement Disability benefits depends on your record of service and earnings. In 2013, disabled railroad workers were awarded an average of $2,885 a month. The benefits will last until you reach full retirement age or you are no longer disabled. Full retirement age for Railroad Retirement benefits is the same as the age for Social Security Retirement benefits. However, unlike Social Security, you get full Railroad Retirement benefits at the age of 60 if you worked for at least 30 years for an RRB covered employer.

Have You Been Denied Railroad Retirement Disability?

If you have been denied Railroad Retirement Disability, you have the right to appeal. There is a “three-stage” appeals process:

1) You may request a reconsideration.

2) If you are denied again, you can appeal to the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. At this stage, you have right to a hearing. If there is an in-person hearing, it may be conducted at the Railroad Retirement Board office closest to your home. In Alabama, the hearing will be held at the Birmingham office. In some cases, video conferencing or phone hearings are held.

3) If you are not satisfied with the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals decision, you may then appeal to a three-member Board. The three-member Board ordinarily will not accept additional evidence or conduct a hearing.

If you are dissatisfied with the three-member Board’s final decision, then you may then file a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals to review the Board’s decision.

How Do You Apply for Railroad Retirement Disability?

You may file for Railroad Retirement Disability benefits at one of the Railroad Retirement Board’s (“RRB”) field offices or by telephone. In Alabama, the RRB’s field office is located in Birmingham. If you are not able to get to your local field office, in-person service may be available at a Customer Outreach Program (CORP) service location. For information about CORP, contact your local field office.

To expedite the filing, you or a family member should call or write the RRB field office to schedule an appointment. For the appointment, bring any medical evidence you can obtain along with proof of your age. Medical evidence includes medical records, dates of hospitalization, names and dosages of medication, names of doctors, etc. Bring any notice of workers’ compensation or public disability benefits. In addition, bring proof of any military service and a description of your prior work.

How can Friedman Law Firm help you?

Friedman Law Firm can help you at any stage of your claim, beginning with filing the initial application. The advantage of seeking our counsel at the beginning is that we can help you include information that may not appear important, but is important; while at the same time, omitting information that you may think is important, but actually is not important, and in some cases, may hurt your application. Our goal is to obtain benefits based on the initial application and thus avoid the often long and demanding appeals process.

We charge a legal fee only if we win your case. The fee is 25% of the past-due Railroad Retirement Benefit. We do not charge a legal fee for any of your future Railroad Retirement Disability benefits.