TN 25 (12-23)

RS 01601.100 The Railroad Retirement Act

A. Background of the Railroad Retirement Act

The Railroad Retirement Act (RR Act):

  1. a. 

    provides for payment of benefits for railroad (RR) employees, their dependents and survivors;

  2. b. 

    pays retirement, auxiliary, and disability benefits based on RR employees' earnings in the RR industry;

  3. c. 

    pays survivor benefits based on RR employees' earnings in the RR industry and any employment and self-employment covered under Social Security when the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) has jurisdiction of survivor benefits (see RS 01601.135);

  4. d. 

    contains provisions that affect the payment of RSI payments when RR employment is involved;

  5. e. 

    provides for coordination between SSA and RRB on the payment of benefits; and

  6. f. 

    established the RRB to administer the RR Act and maintain local RRB offices.

B. Explanation of Railroad Terminology

1. Railroad employer

Any RR engaged in the Interstate Commerce Act and its subsidiaries, RR associations and national railway labor organizations.

2. Railroad employee

An individual is considered an employee and covered by the RR Act if:

  1. a. 

    the performance of service is subject to the continuing authority of the employer; or

  2. b. 

    they do professional or technical services and are integrated into the staff of the employer; or

  3. c. 

    they render, on the property used in the employer's operations, services that are an integral part of the operations of the employer, and do services for compensation; or

  4. d. 

    they are an employee representative; i.e., any officer or official representative of a railway labor organization that is not national in scope and is duly authorized to represent employees according to the Railway Labor Act, who previously was in the service of a RR employer; or

  5. e. 

    they are an employee of a local lodge of a railway labor organization and if the:

    • headquarters of the lodge for which the person works is in the U.S. or substantially all of the lodge's members work for an employer that conducts the principle part of its business in the U.S., and

    • employee was, on or after 08/29/35, working for or in an employment relation with a RR, and

    • compensation is at least $3 per month through 1974 and $25 per month starting 01/75.

3. Railroad Annuity

A benefit based on a two-part formula. The two parts are called tier I and tier II. In certain cases, there are other components. See RS 01601.125 for more information and an explanation of a tier I and tier II annuity.

4. Current connection with the Railroad

An employee has a current connection if they:

  • have 120 months of RR service; or

  • effective 01/01/2002 have less than 120 months of RR service but with at least 60 months of RR service after December 31, 1995, and worked for a RR in at least 12 months in the 30 months immediately before retirement or death; or

  • effective 01/01/2002 have less than 120 months of RR service but with at least 60 months of RR service after December 31, 1995, and a 30-month period in which 12 months of RR service was performed provided that the worker did not have a regular non-railroad job after that 30-month period and before their death or retirement. (Self-employment in one's own unincorporated business and work for certain U.S. Government agencies will not break a current connection.) Moreover, once a current connection is established at the time of retirement, an employee never loses it, no matter what kind of work is done after that; or

  • for purposes of supplemental and survivor annuities, completed 25 years of RR service, which was involuntarily ended without fault on or after 10/01/75, and did not after that date decline an offer of suitable employment in the RR industry. This provision is effective 10/0l/81 and only for employees alive on the effective date; or

  • died and were completely insured in all other respects under the RR Act but would not be fully insured under the SS Act based on the combined earnings records (ERs); or

  • died and were partially insured in all other respects under the RR Act but would be neither fully nor currently insured under the SS Act based upon the combined ERs; or

  • died and had no QCs based on SS earnings; or

  • received a pension under the 1937 Act or a retirement annuity began to accrue before 1948 based on 114-119 months (deemed to be 120 months) of service. This provision is effective 10/01/81 and only for employees alive on the effective date.

5. Railroad Pension

Benefit payable to RR worker who was on the private pension rolls of a RR employer in 1937, and who is not eligible for a RR annuity.

6. Railroad compensation

RR compensation includes:

  • money paid for an employee's regular services including commissions, bonuses, and any items, such as groceries and rent, for which specific money value was agreed upon as payment for services before the services were rendered;

  • payment for lost time;

  • vacation pay;

  • $160 for each month of creditable military service (MS) through 1967, $260 for each month of creditable MS after 1967 and through 1974, and starting in 1975, the same amount as covered MS (not deemed military wages (DMW) under the SS Act);

  • cash tips of $20 or more in any calendar month after 1965 received while engaged in RR employment;

  • separation or dismissal allowance;

  • earnings in the employment of a local lodge or division of a railway labor organization;

  • distributions from productivity sharing savings trust fund; and

  • for service rendered after 06/30/83, the amount of voluntary payment by the employer of any tax imposed on the employee's compensation.

7. Jurisdiction determination of survivor benefits

Jurisdiction refers to the RRB’s determination of which Agency (the RRB or SSA) adjudicates a survivor claim. See RS 01601.300 for more information.

8. Certification responsibility

Jurisdiction and certification are separate issues and one does not necessarily involve the other. Certification responsibility refers to the Agency, SSA or RRB, that has responsibility for certifying a SSA benefit to Treasury for payment in initial claims or payment adjustment actions. See RS 01601.310B.1. for more information.

9. Vested Railroad employee

An employee is vested if they met the requirements to be entitled and eligible for a railroad annuity. See RS 01602.005B.2. and RS 01602.105 for more information.

10. Vested dual benefit

If an employee qualified for both railroad retirement and Social Security benefits before 1975 and met certain vesting requirements, they

can receive an additional RRB annuity component called a vested dual benefit. See RS 01601.125D. for more information.

C. Procedures for claimant inquiries and verifying RRB entitlement

SSA personnel should follow the instructions below if a claimant inquires about RR benefits or if SSA needs to verify RRB entitlement.

1. Claimant Inquiry

If a claimant inquires about RR benefits, SSA personnel should:

  • Explain that the provisions of the RR Act are complex and that only RRB has the authority, the records and the information needed to give a proper answer about claims or benefit decisions, RR annuity amount, and determinations under the RR Act.

  • Tell the person to contact the nearest RRB Field Office and that a delay in filing may affect the amount of benefits received.

    Give the telephone number and address of the nearest RRB Field Office and the address of the RRB Headquarters Office. Current field office address and telephone information may be obtained by accessing the RRB website at The RRB Headquarters Office address is:

    844 Rush Street

    Chicago, Illinois 60611-2092
  • Give the RRB Help Line number: 1 (877) 772-5772.

2. Entitlement verification

If SSA needs to verify RRB entitlement, call the RRB Customer Service Unit. The RRB Customer Service Unit telephone numbers are 312-751-7105 or 312-751-7106.

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RS 01601.100 - The Railroad Retirement Act - 12/15/2023
Batch run: 12/15/2023