RRB Occupational Long Term Disability

An occupational disability annuity is based on disability for the employee’s regular railroad occupation and is payable at age 60 if the employee has 10 years of service, or at any age if the employee has at least 20 years of service. A “current connection with the railroad industry” is also required for an occupational disability annuity. The current connection requirement is normally met if the employee worked for a railroad in at least 12 of the last 30 consecutive months immediately preceding the annuity beginning date.

An employee is considered to be occupationally disabled if a physical and/or mental impairment prevents the employee from performing the duties of his or her regular railroad occupation, even though the employee may be able to perform other kinds of work. An employee’s regular occupation is generally that particular work he or she has performed for hire in more calendar months, which may or may not be consecutive, than any other work during the last five years; or that work which was performed for hire in at least one-half of all the months, which must be consecutive, in which the employee worked for hire during the last 15 years.

Disabled railroad workers retiring directly from the railroad industry at the end of fiscal year 2017 were awarded nearly $2,920 a month on the average, while awards for disabled workers under social security averaged about $1,295.

Waiting Period

A five-month waiting period beginning with the month after the month of the disability’s onset is required before railroad retirement disability annuity payments can begin. However, an applicant need not wait until this five-month period is over to file for benefits.

The Board accepts disability applications up to 3 months in advance of an annuity beginning date which allows the agency to complete the processing of most new claims before a person’s actual retirement date. An employee can be in compensated service while filing a disability application provided that the compensated service is not active service and terminates before the annuity beginning date and the end of the 3-month period. When an employee files a disability application while still in compensated service, it will be necessary for the employee to provide a specific ending date of the compensation.

Compensated service includes not only compensation with respect to active service performed by an employee for an employer, but also includes pay for time lost, wage continuation payments, certain employee protection payments and any other payment for which the employee will receive additional creditable service.

Required Documentation when filing for a disability annuity

Employees filing for disability annuities are required to submit medical evidence supporting their claim. Applicants should be prepared to furnish dates of hospitalization, names and dosages of medication, names of doctors, etc. Applicants may also be asked to take special medical examinations given by a doctor named by the RRB. If a disability applicant is receiving workers’ compensation or public disability benefits, notice of such payments must be submitted.

Sources of medical evidence for railroad retirement disability purposes may include, but are not limited to, the applicant’s railroad employer, personal physician and hospital, the Social Security Administration or the agency paying workers’ compensation or public disability benefits. This evidence generally should not be more than 12 months old. In addition, proof of age and proof of any military service credit claimed and a description of past work activity will also be required.

Applying for disability benefits

Applications for railroad retirement disability annuities are generally filed at one of the Board’s field offices, or at one of the office’s Customer Outreach Program (CORP) service locations, or by telephone and mail. However, applications by rail employees for early Medicare coverage on the basis of kidney disease have to be filed with an office of the Social Security Administration, rather than the Railroad Retirement Board.

To expedite filing for a railroad retirement disability annuity, disabled employees or a family member should call or write the nearest Railroad Retirement Board field office to schedule an appointment. For the appointment, claimants should bring in any medical evidence in their possession and any medical records they can secure from their treating sources, such as their regular physician. Employees who are unable to personally visit an RRB office or meet an RRB representative at a CORP service location may request special assistance, such as having an RRB representative come to a hospital or the employee’s home. RRB personnel can assist disabled employees with their applications and advise them on how to obtain any additional medical evidence required or any other necessary documents or records.

More information is available by visiting the RRB’s web site, www.rrb.gov, or by calling an RRB office toll-free at 1-877-772-5772. Persons can find the address of the RRB office servicing their area by calling the agency’s toll-free number or at www.rrb.gov.