Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act (RRSIA)
Frequently Asked Questions
President Bush signed the Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act (RRSIA) into law on December 21, 2001. We have provided answers to commonly asked questions about the law below.
T-35 Leaflet, the RR Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act of 2001 publication provides more information. If you want the entire text with the exact wording of the bill (H.R.10) as signed by the President, it is available on the Library of Congress web site.
If you currently receive a widow's or widower's benefit from the Railroad Retirement Board, you will receive a letter by late January. The letter will advise whether or not you are due an increase, and if so, when you can expect payment of any increase due.
We are currently calculating the benefits and will not know the exact amount of anyone's increase until late April. If you are due an increase, the change is effective February 1, 2002. Accrual checks for the increase due for the months of February and March will be paid in late April. The May 1, 2002 check (payment for April 2002) will reflect the new increased monthly rates due to the new provisions for widow(er)s.
We can understand how the two pieces of information given to you could cause confusion. Some widow(er)s are entitled to a Widow(er)'s Initial Minimum Amount (WIMA) calculation and some are not entitled to the calculation. Widow(er)s paid under the 1937/1974 Act are not entitled to the WIMA calculation. Widow(er)s paid under the 1937/1974 Act received a letter that mentions 1986 because 1937/1974 Act annuities began before 1986. This means that you are not eligible for a WIMA calculation. Widow(er)s whose annuities began in 1986 or later were paid under the 1981 Act and are eligible for a WIMA calculation. The WIMA amount, however, may be less than one's current rate. While each case is different, the WIMA will generally not apply if the 1981 Act widow(er) has been on the rolls for more than seven (7) years. The letters being released from the Railroad Retirement Board are accurate according to the law. Each case has been reviewed individually to determine whether or not an increase is payable.
If you require specific information regarding private health insurance, or the effect of the recent legislation on the availability of health insurance to early retirees and their families, please contact the personnel office of your railroad employer or your health insurance provider.
At this time, it is necessary for you to contact your local Railroad Retirement Board field office to obtain an application.
Persons, age 60 or older with 30 years of railroad service, wanting to receive benefits retroactive to January 1, 2002 or later have up to six months from the date they wish their annuity to begin to file an application without a loss of benefits.
Yes, you will continue to receive reduced benefits based on the law that was applicable at the time you filed. The new law provides that persons whose retirement begins January 1, 2002 or later with 30 years railroad service can retire at age 60 or older with no age reduction. If your retirement was recent, within the last few years, you may wish to contact your local field office to obtain more information.
The new law does not affect work deductions in any way and they will still be applied. In 2002, excess earnings work deductions will be applied to all annuitants born in 1937 or later. In 2002, for persons attaining age 65 this year with earnings over $30,000 and for persons age 60 to 64 with earnings over $11,280, work deductions will continue to be applied.
Note: These amounts do not apply to disabled employee annuitants born in 1937 or later who must notify us of any amount of earnings, and have work deductions applied if they have earnings of more than $400 in any month.
Also for all regular retirement annuities, additional work deductions can also be applied if persons continue to work for their last non-railroad employer prior to their retirement.
The new law did not change the rules governing a "current connection" with the railroad industry. A "current connection" is not required in order for an employee to receive a regular annuity. The current connection is required for only three entitlements: supplemental annuity, occupational disability, and survivor benefits. More information can be obtained by reading The Importance of a Current Connection for Railroad Retirement Benefits.
No, the maximum is eliminated effective January 1, 2002. Benefits paid for months prior to January will remain the same. If you are due an increase, a letter is being released to you in late January. Accrual checks for the increase due for the months of January through April will be paid in late May. The June 1, 2002 check (payment for May 2002) will reflect the new increased monthly rate due to the elimination of Railroad Maximum.
If you have less than 120 railroad service months, you must have actually worked or earned 60 railroad service months after 1995 in order to qualify under the new provision. (Months prior to 1996 are not considered for obtaining the 60 railroad service months needed.) If you do not meet this requirement, you will not be eligible even though you may have 60 months railroad service prior to 1996.