By submitting this form, you agree to be contacted via the information given through email, phone call, or text message.

News Displaying All Posts Tagged "Railroad Retirement"

Understanding Eligibility for Railroad Disability Annuity

By Jessica M. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Railroad workers facing health challenges often consider applying for a railroad disability annuity to help them pay bills and keep afloat financially while they unable to work. In determining whether you may qualify for railroad disability, let's take a closer look at two critical components: the definition of disability and the work and service prerequisites.

Defining Disability under Railroad Retirement

What Constitutes Disability?

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment expected to last at least 12 months. This definition goes beyond just having a diagnosis and focuses on the impact of the condition on a person's ability to work.

For example, consider Maria, a railroader diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. If medical assessments determine that Maria's back condition makes it impossible for her to perform her regular job duties and this is expected to last for at least 12 months, she may meet the disability criteria set by the RRB.

The Nuances of Disability Determination

It's important to note that the disability determination process involves a comprehensive evaluation of medical evidence, work history, and the nature of the impairment. Medical documentation, including reports from treating physicians, diagnostic tests, and treatment records, plays a crucial role in establishing the existence and severity of the disability.

Work and Service Prerequisites

Recent Railroad Service Considerations

In addition to the definition of disability, the RRB considers an individual's work and service history in determining eligibility for a disability annuity. The RRB may require a specific amount of creditable railroad service within a defined period (typically the last 12 months, but sometimes more) to meet the work and service prerequisites. This recent service is a critical factor for determining eligibility because without this "current connection" to the railroad, you will not be eligible for benefits.

Navigating Complexity with Professional Assistance

Understanding the intricate details of the definition of disability and the work and service prerequisites is vital for railroaders considering a disability annuity. While the criteria provide a framework, the application process can still be complex.

This complexity is why seeking professional assistance, such as hiring an attorney with experience in railroad retirement law, becomes invaluable. Our attorneys and paralegals know how to navigate these nuances, ensuring that the application process is approached strategically, with comprehensive documentation and a thorough understanding of eligibility criteria.

For a free consultation on your Railroad Disability case, call us at 205-879-3033.

Qualifying For Railroad Retirement Disability

By Jessica M. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Railroad Retirement

Have you or someone you know worked on the railroads and suffered a disability that prevented future employment? You may qualify for a railroad retirement disability annuity. Railroad Retirement Disability provides benefits and Medicare programs comparable to Social Security disability.

Tier I & Tier 2

Railroad Retirement benefits are separated into two tiers. Tier I is the amount you would get from Social Security Disability. Tier II is an additional disability benefit similar to a pension plan. Tier II benefits are based on the employee’s salary and years of service. 

Tier II benefits are calculated as:

(employee’s highest earnings over 60 months x number of years of service) x 0.007

Railroad Retirement Disability Eligibility

There are two types of RR Retirement Disability:

TOTAL DISABILITY ANNUITY — To qualify, you cannot be able to work in any capacity and must have a minimum of 10 years of railroad service. You may qualify if you have five to nine years of experience that occurred after 1995 and you meet the earnings requirements for Social Security.

OCCUPATIONAL DISABILITY ANNUITY — To qualify, you must be disabled from performing your own regular railroad occupation. There is no age requirement for this annuity as long as you have 20 years of creditable railroad service. Otherwise, you must be at least 60 years old and have ten years of railroad service. 

The main difference between the two is that with Total Disability Annuity, you must prove you are unable to work in any field. For Occupational Disability, you only need to prove you can no longer perform your current railroad occupation.

How much does Railroad Retirement Disability pay?

According to the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), “The average age annuity being paid by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) at the end of fiscal year 2021 to career rail employees was $3,815 a month, and for all retired rail employees the average was $3,045. The average age retirement benefit paid under social security was approximately $1,550 a month.”

I’ve Been Denied by the RRB. Now What?

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

  1. You may request a reconsideration.

  2. If denied again, you may appeal to the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. You have the right to a hearing. If the hearing is in-person, it will likely be at the RRB office closest to your home. In some cases, video conferencing or phone hearings are an option.

  3. If you are unsatisfied with the decision made by the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals, you may then appeal to a three-member Board. This three-member board typically does not accept additional evidence or conduct a hearing. 

Most hearings are over an hour and consist of the Hearing Officer asking questions. Afterward, your lawyer may ask follow-up questions. After you provide testimony, the next witness is typically a vocational expert (VE) who testifies about what jobs you could do based on various assumptions established in the hearing. This testimony can include intangibles, like your ability to concentrate and focus during an eight-hour workday or your ability to adapt to new workplaces. 

Friedman Law Firm can help you at any stage of your claim, beginning with filing the initial application. The advantage to retaining representation is that we can guide and advise you regarding which information is most important to your case. Often it is difficult to know which information is important and which is not. Our goal is to help you obtain benefits based on the initial application in order to avoid a lengthy appeals process. 

If you have questions about the above information or need representation for your case, reach out to us to schedule a free consultation. You can call us at 800-728-0434, or message us through our Contact page.

Railroad Retirement Board Disability Hearings: The Importance of Procedure

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

Friday, January 3, 2020

At a railroad retirement board disability hearing, sometimes the importance of procedure can be overlooked. It's obvious that when you have a hearing, you need to include helpful evidence in the record. But, it is often not obvious how to include evidence in the record. Most workers think of Railroad Retirement Disability in terms of their injuries and nothing else. But, when it comes to Railroad Retirement disability cases, the procedural aspects are just as important.

Unless you are familiar with the railroad disability process, you may miss important opportunities to present your case in the best light. For example, at the hearing, if you think that an exhibit that the Hearing Officer wants to include in the record is inaccurate and should not be admitted, you have to state an objection to it, and give reasons why.

While most evidence will be admitted, sometimes an objection will at least alert the Hearing Officer to a problem you perceive with an Exhibit in the case. Maybe that the particular evidence may be given less weight than other evidence as a result. This is an example of utilizing a procedural aspect of the case to enhance the substance of your case by telling the Hearing Officer that the evidence in your favor is stronger than other evidence, and why.

Similarly, sometimes you may need to object to a question posed by the Hearing Officer, or a response by the Vocational Expert.  While this does not happen often, if it comes up, you need to know what to do to assert your rights. An example might be a leading question from the Hearing Officer, or a non-responsive or incomprehensible answer from the vocational expert. Or, on the rare occasion that you may think that the Hearing Officer is not being fair, usually you have to raise that issue at the hearing, and ask the Hearing Officer to recuse themselves.

As you present your testimony and evidence, these issues and others like them should be on your mind. You will find that it is often procedural aspects like these that become most important to the success of your case.

If you have any questions, please email us at or call (800) 728-0434.

The Role of the Vocational Expert and a Railroad Retirement Board Hearing.

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Railroad Retirement Disability Hearings consider not only your medical condition, but also your age, education and work history. They also consider intangibles, such as your ability to concentrate and focus during an eight hour work day. And also your ability to adapt to new work places, industries, and job requirements. Another important consideration is whether your medical conditions will cause you to miss too much work to retain a job.

All of these limitations are vocational considerations that will be evaluated by the Vocational Expert at the hearing. The VE is a neutral witness, and usually they are knowledgeable, fair, and equitable. They will answer questions about vocational issues that are posed by the Hearing Officer and by your attorney.

VE testimony is often the most misunderstood aspect of the hearing. This is because the VE will often identify jobs that a person can do. But, you must remember that the jobs in the answer are based upon the assumptions given to the VE. So, if the Hearing Officer asks the VE to assume that a person can leap tall buildings with a single bound, like Superman, could perform work, the answer is very likely going to be yes. But, if Superman has PTSD, although he may be able to physically perform a job, he may not be able to work-- maybe he cannot be around people --; --; or he gets angry easily --; --; or he gets in fights with co-workers. These are non-exertional limitations that usually restrict or eliminate the ability to perform any kind of job.

But, you have to know what kind of questions to ask the VE. Many representatives do not ask the VE any questions at all -- --; and so they lose important and often helpful testimony. While the hearing is supposed to be non-adversarial, meaning that there is not a lawyer on the other side representing the government, you still have to ask questions that will help your case. The Hearing Officer may not ask the needed questions for you. So, unless you are properly prepared to cross-examine the vocational expert, it’s possible that the only vocational evidence in the record will be against you.

We will discuss in our next blog post the importance of entering all the important evidence into the record at a Railroad Retirement disability hearing.

If you have questions about the above information, please email us at or call us at (800) 728-0434.

What Happens at a Railroad Retirement Board Hearing?

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Who conducts the Hearing?

Railroad Retirement Board Hearings are different from other disability hearings, such as Social Security and Veterans Compensation,  because they are conducted by a Hearing Officer, not an administrative law judge.

The hearings are held by video with a Hearing Officer located in Chicago. The worker and his or her attorney are in a location remote to the Hearing Officer. For example, we recently had a hearing at a conference center where they had a room fitted with video technology.

Where are hearings held?

Since the hearing location is not controlled by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), it can vary in quality and appropriate surroundings. You may find, for example, that your venue is not private, and there may be windows onto hallways and lobbies that allow people on the outside to look in. You may also find that noise on the other side of the door and/or walls interferes with your ability to hear the Hearing Officer.

But you can probably assume that the video will be up to RRB standards, otherwise they would probably select another location.

What happens at the hearing?

The Hearing Officer proceeds by asking questions of the disabled worker. The hearings can be quite long -- --; often over an hour. Most of this time is usually the Hearing Officer asking questions. The worker’s lawyer then may ask follow-up questions.

After the worker gives testimony, the next witness is usually a vocational expert (VE). The VE testifies about the kinds of jobs a person can perform based on various assumptions. For example, the Hearing Officer may ask the VE to assume that a person is the same age, education and work history as the claimant. And then to assume further that the claimant has additional limitations, such as the inability to stand and walk for more than four hours per eight hour work day. And the ability to sit more than fours hours in a work day.

After setting out all the assumptions in the hypothetical question, the VE is asked whether a person with those facts could perform their past work, or any other job. The answer to these questions depends on the assumptions given to the VE.

We will describe more about the vocational aspects of a hearing in our next post. If you have any questions about Railroad Retirement Board disability, please email us at or call us at  1-800-728-0434.  We have clients all over the country, so don't hesitate to call!

Filing for Railroad Retirement

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

Friday, May 31, 2019

Did you work for the Railroad and now you can't work anymore? Maybe you were injured on the job or just got sick and now you can't work. Railroad retirement disability provides a disability benefit and Medicare coverage very similar to Social Security. You may be able to apply for both benefits! If you have questions about this, we can help. We've had a good number of railroad retirement disability cases.

Call us at 205-879-3033.