Certain railroad employees are entitled to an occupational disability annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act. There are several questions surrounding these benefits, from how to apply for them to the timing aspects for when a worker can first receive a payment. A critical point for all railroaders to know is that it is important to work with an experienced railroad injury lawyer when applying for these appropriations.

What is an occupational disability annuity?

This type of annuity is a payment given to a railroad employee after he or she incurs a disability in the course of employment. A worker is deemed “occupationally disabled” if:

  1. He or she suffers from a physical or mental impairment, and
  2. The impairment prevents the railroader from performing the duties of his or her regular railroad occupation.

If a worker is occupationally disabled, then the annuity is payable at:

  • Age 60 if the employee has 10 years (120 months) or railroad service, or
  • At any age if the employee has at least 20 years (240 months) of service.

Further, to receive the payment, the worker must have a “current connection” with the railroad industry. This means he or she has worked for a railroad in at least 12 of the 30 months immediately preceding the date annuities would begin.

The average occupational disability payment is about $3,145 per month for 2019. A occupational disability annuity is different than a total disability annuity.

Is there a waiting period before a worker can receive an annuity payment?

There is a five-month waiting period before an employee can receive an annuity payment. This waiting period begins the month after the month in which the disability arises. Note, though, that a worker does not have to wait until this five-month period is over before filing for benefits. Further, a worker can be in compensated service while filing for an annuity provided that:

  1. The compensated service is not active service, and
  2. The service terminates within 90 days from the date of filing.

What documentation is required when filing for a disability annuity?

Employees must submit documentation that they suffer from a physical or mental impairment and can no longer perform the duties of his or her railroad job. This documentation can take the form of:

  • Medical records,
  • Dates of hospitalization,
  • Names of doctors, and
  • Dosages of medication.

Applicants may also have to undergo a medical examination by a doctor named by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB).

What is the best way to apply for an occupational disability annuity?

Workers must complete an annuity application and file it at:

  • One of the RRB’s field offices, or
  • One of the office’s Customer Outreach Program (CORP) service locations.

Can an employee continue to receive a disability annuity even if he or she works after the annuity begins?

Disability annuities cannot be paid for any month in which the worker earns more than $990 in any employment or self-employment. An employee may be subject to a significant penalty fee if he or she fails to report additional earnings.

Does employment with a rail labor organization affect eligibility for an annuity?

An annuity payment cannot begin before the day after the worker stops working in compensated service for any railroad employer, including labor organizations. This work includes service for more than $24.99 in a month to a local lodge or division of a railway labor organization.

Does a worker have to relinquish employment rights to receive a disability annuity?

An employee can be in compensated service while filing a disability annuity application provided that the service ends within 90 days from the date of filing the application. Note, however, that for a supplemental annuity to be paid, a disabled worker under full retirement has to relinquish employment rights.

Are annuity applications retroactive?

Occupational disability applications are retroactive. The maximum retroactivity of an application is 12 months prior to the date the application was filed.

Should a disabled worker consult with a railroad injury lawyer prior to filing an annuity application?

An employee should speak with a skilled railroad injury attorney before filing an application. There are critical dates in filing these applications and important dates regarding:

  • Working in compensated service, and
  • Periods of retroactivity.

If a worker fails to adhere to these dates, or does not consider them, then he or she might not maximize his or her annuity payments. In addition, an experienced lawyer can help a worker organize any documentation supporting an application.

At Rossi Vucinovich PC, our attorneys are experienced in the unique rules and procedures involved in occupational disability annuity applications. Further, our firm is dedicated to helping injured railroad workers obtain the benefits they need to treat their injuries, pay their bills, and continue supporting their families. We treat every case with passion and unmatched effort. Contact our firm today and get the legal help you deserve.