TN 14 (04-17)

RS 01602.005 Overview of Claims with Railroad Service

A. Claims with railroad involvement

This section contains instructions for coordinating the processing of the Social Security Administration (SSA) claims with the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) when a claimant, or the claimant’s current or former spouse, had railroad earnings covered by the Railroad Retirement Act (RR Act). Whenever railroad earnings are alleged, or appear on an earnings record, railroad is involved.

While SSA has unique processing instructions for claims with railroad earnings, only the RRB has the necessary information to explain the effect of SSA entitlement on a RRB annuity and to make determinations on total benefits payable from SSA and the RRB. Direct caller inquiries to the RRB. You will find information on contacting the RRB and the location of RRB offices on the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board’s website at www.rrb.gov.

B. Terminology used for Railroad (RR) employment and annuities

The terms are as follows:

  1. Railroad Involvement. A retirement, survivor, or disability insurance (RSDI) claim with railroad involvement is one in which a:

    • Number holder (NH), spouse, or divorced spouse receives a railroad (RR) retirement annuity,

    • NH, spouse, or divorced spouse has RR earnings, or

    • Deceased NH (DNH) or survivor has RR earnings.

  2. Vesting with the RRB. The RRB considers the claimant (NH, spouse or divorced spouse, or survivor) vested with the RRB and eligible for a RRB annuity if the railroad worker has:

    • 60 months of service accrued after December 31, 1995, or

    • 120 total months of service covered under the RR Act.

      If the worker is vested with the RRB, SSA does not use any RR earnings to compute a benefit in a life case.

  3. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) use of creditable military service. As of January 1, 2002, creditable military service time after December 31, 1995, can count toward the 60-month requirement. For more information, see RS 01601.400 and RS 01601.410.

  4. Railroad Retirement Board Certification (RR Cert). RR Cert occurs when SSA authorizes the RRB to certify to the Treasury the Social Security benefit of a claimant listed in RS 01601.310. A claimant does not have to be vested to have SSA benefits certified to the RRB. SSA awards benefits but certifies the benefit to the RRB, instead of directly to the Treasury. SSA determines whether RR Cert is involved by reviewing the earnings records involved and from the claimants’ answers to questions on railroad employment. For more information, see RS 01601.310B.1.

  5. Split certification. Split certification occurs in some multiple beneficiary cases but can also occur for a single beneficiary who receives benefits on more than one SS record. For more information on split certification, see RS 01601.310B.2.

  6. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) Jurisdiction. For survivor claims, the RRB determines which agency has jurisdiction for benefits. If the RRB has jurisdiction for a survivor claim, SSA cannot pay survivor benefits, even if SSA used the RR earnings previously to compute a SSA life benefit. For more information, see RS 01601.300.

  7. SSA Jurisdiction with RR involvement. For a survivor’s benefit, a RR worker’s earnings can be used by SSA for determining survivor benefits only if the RRB determines that SSA has jurisdiction.

    NOTE: SSA jurisdiction does not preclude RRB certification responsibility. In certain circumstances, RRB remains the agency that has the authority to certify the survivor benefits to Treasury even though it gives SSA jurisdiction for adjudicating the claim. For examples of jurisdiction and certification, see subsections RS 01601.310C and RS 01601.310D.

C. Chart of needed RR development by type of claim

The following chart explains necessary development, depending on whether the claim is for retirement or disability benefits:

  If…

then…