Upon the death of a railroad employee, survivor benefits may become payable in the form of a monthly annuity or as a lump sum payment. Monthly annuities are payable to widow(er)s, remarried widow(er)s, surviving divorced spouses, children, grandchildren, students, and parents that meet eligibility requirements based on either age, disability or having a child in care.
If there are no survivors qualified for a monthly annuity immediately at the death of a railroad employee, a lump-sum death benefit may become payable. With the exception of a residual lump-sum death benefit, eligibility for survivor benefits depends on whether or not the employee was insured under the Railroad Retirement Act at the time of his or her death.
An employee is insured if he or she has at least 10 years of railroad service, or 5 years performed after 1995, and a current connection with the railroad industry as of the month the annuity begins or the month of death, whichever occurs first. If a deceased employee was not insured, jurisdiction of any survivor benefits payable is transferred to the Social Security Administration and any survivor benefits will be paid by that agency instead of the RRB. Regardless of which agency has jurisdiction, the deceased employee's railroad retirement and social security credits will be combined for the purpose of benefit computations.
For additional information about survivor benefits, refer to RRB publication Railroad Retirement and Survivor Benefits (IB-2).