TN 10 (04-17)

RS 01601.310 Certification of Social Security Benefits to the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)

A. Introduction for RRB certification of Social Security benefits

For entitlement after December 31, 1974, the Social Security Act (SS Act) and the Railroad Retirement Act (RR Act) provide that the RRB certifies payment to Treasury for some Social Security claims, but not the lump sum death payment (LSDP). If the Social Security Administration (SSA) has certification responsibility, certify the Social Security benefit to Treasury. If the RRB has certification responsibility, adjudicate the Social Security claim, but certify the payment to the RRB. RR Certification (RR Cert) occurs when SSA certifies benefits to the RRB. SSA makes no payment, but authorizes the RRB to make the payments for SSA.

In an RR Cert case, the RRB:

  • imposes a dollar-for-dollar offset of the tier I portion of the railroad (RR) retirement annuity to account for the SSA benefit,

  • adds the tier II portion of the RR annuity and any other applicable annuity types,

  • adds the Social Security payment amount, and

  • certifies the total to Treasury for issuance of a combined payment.

In RR Cert cases, even if SSA mistakenly certified payment to Treasury, the overpayment would not apply to the SSA benefits. In this situation, the potential overpayment would only apply to the RR annuity, because the RRB did not impose the offset.

B. Explanation of certification terms

1. Certification responsibility

Effective for entitlement after 12/31/74, the SS Act and the RR Act provide that the RR annuity is offset by entitlement to SSA benefits and in certain situations SSA payments (but not LSDP) be certified to Treasury by RRB rather than SSA.

If SSA has certification responsibility, SSA will certify the SSA benefit to Treasury. If RRB has certification responsibility, SSA will adjudicate the claim but will certify the payment to RRB instead of to Treasury.

By not certifying the SSA payment to Treasury, SSA precludes duplication of payment by both agencies and decreases the risk of overpayment. SSA subsequently reimburses RRB for the SSA amounts that RRB certified to Treasury. See RS 01601.310C. in this section for specific certification categories and procedures.

2. Split certification

Split Certification refers to a situation in which both SSA and RRB certify benefits. Split certification may arise on one Social Security record involving multiple beneficiaries (see RS 01601.310D, Example 7 in this section) or on multiple Social Security records involving one beneficiary (see RS 01601.310D, Example 5 in this section).

C. RRB certification procedures

1. Determining Certification responsibility

Determine certification responsibility on an individual claimant or beneficiary basis. The claimant's relationship to the RR worker will determine which agency has certification responsibility. Even though other beneficiaries on the SSA record may be RR Cert, the claimant currently filing for benefits may not be RR Cert. Apply the conditions for RR certification to each claimant or beneficiary and to each claims account number separately, to include surviving divorced spouses, remarried widow(er), and surviving divorced mother and father.

NOTE: Never certify a LSDP to the RRB.

For manual processing instructions of RR Cert awards involving attorney fees, see SM 00835.330.

Obtain all necessary earnings records to determine certification responsibility.

Certify benefits to the RRB, when the beneficiary meets at least one of the following conditions:

  1. the SSA beneficiary has 120 or more RR service months or has at least 60 months of RR service earned after December 31, 1995; or

  2. the SSA beneficiary is the spouse of a railroad worker who has 120 RR service months or has at least 60 months of RR service earned after December 31, 1995; or

  3. the SSA beneficiary, entitled on his or her own record, is also the divorced spouse or the independently entitled divorced spouse of a railroad worker who has 120 RR service months or has at least 60 months of RR service earned after December 31, 1995 and is entitled to a SSA benefit on the railroad worker’s SSA record;

    NOTE: In this situation, both SSA payments are RR Cert; or

  4. the SSA beneficiary is only entitled on his or her own record, not on the railroad worker’s record and is also divorced from a railroad worker who has 120 RR service months or has at least 60 months of RR service earned after December 31, 1995;

    NOTE: Effective 11/2/2015, Congress passed H.R. 1314 Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-74) and section 843 of the law allows SSA to certify benefits to the RRB of an individual who is the divorced spouse of a vested railroad worker, but not entitled on the railroad worker’s SSA record. To be considered a divorced spouse of a vested railroad worker, the divorced spouse must have been married to the railroad worker for at least 10 years and the divorced spouse must not be currently married; or

  5. the SSA beneficiary is the survivor of a railroad worker who had 120 RR service months or has at least 60 months of RR service earned after December 31, 1995, and the survivor is entitled, or could be entitled upon application, to an RRB survivor annuity; or

  6. the SSA beneficiary or survivor is entitled to a SS benefit on a vested RR worker’s SSA record. This condition for certification does not apply for a survivor if the deceased railroad worker did not have a current connection at the time of death, or if RRB paid the residual lump sum. For additional information on current connection, see RS 01601.100B.6; or

  7. if life benefits were (or should have been) certified to the RRB, and SSA determines that an underpayment of those life benefits exists after death of the beneficiary, SSA certifies the underpayment to the RRB. This is true even if the RRB determines that SSA has jurisdiction of a subsequent survivor claim on the same earnings record. For more information on jurisdiction, see RS 01601.300.

2. Field office or processing center action for divorced spouse of RR worker

On August 17, 2007, we began listing cases involving non-RR Cert benefits payable to a divorced spouse of a vested RR worker as follows:

  • 308 listing code for the claim of a RR worker’s divorced spouse entitled on the RR worker’s social security number (SSN); The 308 listing is no longer required, as these claims were reviewed and adjudicated according to the RR Cert criteria in RS 01601.310C.1. in this section.

  • 309 listing code for the claim of a RR worker’s divorced spouse not entitled on the RR worker’s SSN. The 309 listing is no longer required. Effective November 2, 2015, section 843 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-74) allows SSA to certify these benefits when the divorced spouse was married to the RR worker for at least 10 years and the divorced spouse is not currently married. When processing the claim of a RR worker’s divorced spouse not entitled on the RR worker’s SSN follow the procedures in SM 00835.100 and SM 00848.565.

3. Exception to RRB certification

Applications and entitlements prior to 1975

If the application or the written intent to file is dated before 1975, and the first month of entitlement is before 1975, the RRB certification does not apply, and SSA certifies to Treasury. However, entitlement to SS benefits that ended before 1975 will not prevent certification to the RRB, if the subsequent entitlement began after 1974. See RS 01601.310D, example 4, in this section.

4. Benefit amount certified to RRB

Determine the benefit amount exactly as if SSA were certifying it to Treasury. Show any reduction, rounding, deductions, or other required adjustments necessary before certifying payments to RRB.

IMPORTANT: Certification of the SSA benefit to RRB has no effect on the SSA benefit amount. SSA retains responsibility for determining the correct benefit amount. RRB does not have the authority to make adjudicative decisions about entitlement, suspensions, or terminations of SSA benefits.

RR Cert applies even when SSA entitlement reduces the RR annuity to zero. Entitlement to a RR annuity is the controlling factor for RR Cert.

5. When RRB certification ends

RRB certification responsibility may end if the RRB terminates an annuity and the termination changes the conditions for certification. RRB makes the decision as to whether RR certification will cease and notifies SSA. When RRB notifies SSA that a RR annuity has terminated, certify the title II benefits to Treasury effective with the month the RR annuity ceased.

In this situation, the RRB notifies the SSA:

  • of the annuity termination;

  • of the SSA benefit paid through date;

  • which agency has jurisdiction of Medicare; and

  • if applicable, the Medicare premium paid through date.

For information on removing the railroad retirement indicator code (RRIC-R), refer to SM 00835.500B.

D. Examples of certification determinations

Example 1

A survivor files an application and the RRB determines that the SSA has jurisdiction because the:

  • deceased had 120 or more months of RR service, or at least 60 months of RR service earned after December 31, 1995, but there was no current connection. For additional information on current connection, see RS 01601.100B.4; or

  • survivor applicant has less than 120 months of RR service or less than 60 months of RR service earned after December 31, 1995 on his or her own record; or

  • survivor applicant has no entitlement or potential entitlement to a RR annuity on any other worker's record.

SSA certifies the survivor’s benefit to Treasury based on combined SSA and RR earnings. Refer to the certification criteria in RS 01601.310C.l.f. in this section.

Example 2

Using the same circumstances as Example 1, except the survivor has 120 or more months of RR service or at least 60 months of RR service earned after December 31, 1995. SSA must certify the survivor benefit to the RRB even though SSA has jurisdiction of the survivor claim. Refer to the certification criteria in RS 01601.310C.l.a in this section.

Example 3

A survivor files an application. The RRB has jurisdiction, and the RRB consequently pays the survivor benefits. Certification is not an issue, since no SSA survivor benefit exists. Later, the survivor, who has no RR service, attains age 62 and files for a SSA benefit on an SSN that does not involve RR. SSA will certify the SSA benefit to the RRB. Refer to the certification criteria in RS 01601.310C.l.e. in this section.

Example 4

Prior to 1975, SSA certified to Treasury the SSA benefits of a worker entitled to both SSA and RR benefits. The worker's spouse attained age 62 after 1975, and SSA certified the spouse's benefit to the RRB. The RR worker’s SSA benefit remains certified to Treasury.

If prior to 1975, SSA certified to Treasury the benefits of a young spouse and the spouse’s entitlement ended before his or her entitlement to an aged spouse benefit began, SSA would still certify the aged spouse benefit to the RRB. However, if there was no break in entitlement, (i.e., benefits converted from young spouse's benefits to aged spouse’s benefits), certification to Treasury would continue. Refer to the RRB certification exception in RS 01601.310C.3. in this section.

Example 5

A person entitled to both a disability insurance benefit (DIB) on his own record and a disabled adult child's (DAC) benefit on his father'