An employee who worked for a railroad in at least 12 months in the 30 months immediately preceding the month his or her railroad retirement annuity begins will meet the current connection requirement for a supplemental annuity, occupational disability annuity, or survivor benefits. (If the employee died before retirement, railroad service in at least 12 months in the 30 months before the month of death will meet the current connection requirement for the purpose of paying survivor benefits.)
If an employee does not qualify on this basis, but has 12 service months in an earlier 30-month period, he or she may still meet the current connection requirement. This alternative generally applies if the employee did not have any regular employment outside the railroad industry after the end of the last 30-month period which included 12 months of railroad service and before the month the annuity begins or the month of death. Full or part-time work for a nonrailroad employer in the interval between the end of the last 30-month period including 12 months of railroad service and the month an employee's annuity begins, or the month of death if earlier, can break a current connection.
Self-employment in an unincorporated business will not break a current connection; however, self-employment can break a current connection if the business is incorporated.
Working for certain U.S. Government agencies--Department of Transportation, National Transportation Safety Board, Surface Transportation Board, National Mediation Board, Transportation Security Administration, RRB--will not break a current connection. State employment with the Alaska Railroad, as long as that railroad remains an entity of the State of Alaska, will not break a current connection. Also, railroad service in Canada for a Canadian railroad will neither break nor preserve a current connection.
A current connection can also be maintained, for purposes of supplemental and survivor annuities, but not for an occupational disability annuity, if the employee completed 25 years of railroad service, was involuntarily terminated without fault from his or her last job in the railroad industry, and did not thereafter decline an offer of employment in the same class or craft in the railroad industry, regardless of the distance to the new position.
A termination of railroad service is considered voluntary unless there was no choice available to the individual to remain in service. Generally, where an employee has no option to remain in the service of his or her railroad employer, the termination of the employment is considered involuntary, regardless of whether the employee does or does not receive a separation allowance. However, each case is decided by the RRB on an individual basis. This exception to the normal current connection requirements became effective October 1, 1981, but only for employees still living on that date who left the rail industry on or after October 1, 1975, or who were on leave of absence, on furlough, or absent due to injury on October 1, 1975.
Once a current connection is established at the time the railroad retirement annuity begins, an employee never loses it no matter what kind of work is performed thereafter.