Applications for railroad retirement or survivor benefits are generally filed at one of the RRB's field offices, with a traveling RRB representative at a customer outreach program service location, or by telephone and mail. The agency accepts applications up to 3 months in advance of an annuity beginning date, which allows the agency to complete the processing of most new claims by a person's retirement date.
An employee can be in compensated service while filing a disability application provided that the compensated service is not active service and terminates within 90 days from the date of filing. When an employee files a disability application while still in compensated service, it will be necessary for the employee to provide a specific ending date of the compensation. Compensated service includes not only compensation with respect to active service performed by an employee for an employer, but also includes pay for time lost, wage continuation payments, certain employee protection payments, and any other payment for which the employee will receive additional creditable service.
Railroad employees with RRB online accounts can get estimates of their future annuities over the Internet by visiting Benefit Online Services. Instructions for establishing an online account are available by clicking on the link for requesting a Password Request Code (PRC) in that same section.
Persons applying for railroad retirement benefits are required to enroll in either the Direct Deposit Program, which electronically transfers payments into an individual's checking or savings account, or the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Direct Express program, which electronically transfers Federal payments to an individual's Direct Express-issued Debit MasterCard®. Enrollment waivers are available only under very limited conditions.
Applicants for railroad retirement and survivor benefits can check with an RRB field office as to when they can expect their first payment. Customer service standards and progress reports are available in field offices and online.
To expedite filing, applicants should contact an RRB field office for a pre-retirement consultation. Certain documents are required when filing a railroad retirement annuity application, such as:
For Employees and Spouses:
- Proof of an employee's age.
- Proof of any military service.
- Proof of marriage if the spouse is eligible or will shortly become eligible for a spouse annuity. A divorced spouse must furnish proof of divorce from the employee.
- Proof of the spouse's or divorced spouse's age.
- Proof of a child's relationship and age, if the spouse is applying for an annuity based on caring for the employee's child.
- Notice of any social security benefit award or other social security claim determination.
- Information about any public service pension for which the applicant qualifies.
- Banking information for Direct Deposit of benefit payments.
- Supporting medical evidence if applying for a disability annuity.
The best proof of age is a certified copy of a civil or church document recorded at or close to the time of birth. The best proof of marriage is a certified copy of the public or church record or the original marriage certificate. A divorced spouse would be expected to furnish a certified copy of the final divorce decree. Proof of military service may be a certificate of discharge, or any official military record that shows the dates of service.
Employees are encouraged to file proofs of age, and especially of any military service, well in advance of retirement in order to expedite the annuity application process and avoid delays resulting from inadequate proofs. Information will be recorded and stored electronically and all proofs will be promptly returned.
Applicants for disability annuities are required to submit supporting medical information. They are sometimes asked to take a special medical examination given by a doctor designated by the RRB.
An annuity is effective as of the first full month throughout which the employee and/or spouse is age 60, or age 62 in the case of reduced annuities. An annuity is effective the first day of the month full retirement age is attained in the case of unreduced annuities with less than 30 years of service.
The retroactivity of a retirement annuity application is limited to 1 year for disability annuities and 6 months for full age annuities. There is generally no retroactivity for reduced age annuities.
Any social security benefits due the retired employee or family member which begin after 1974 are paid through the RRB. Even though the RRB processes payment, the Social Security Administration is responsible for all adjudication.
- A widow(er) must furnish proof of age, proof of marriage, and proof of the employee's death. A surviving divorced spouse must furnish proof of divorce from the employee. If applying for a disability annuity, the widow(er) must also provide supporting medical evidence. A parent must furnish proof of relationship to the employee and proof of support from the employee.
- If children are eligible for benefits, proof of the relationship and age of each child is needed. If a child is over age 18 and disabled, supporting medical evidence is required. Eighteen-year-old students must provide proof of full-time elementary or high school attendance. A step-child of the employee must furnish proof of dependency on the employee.
Retroactivity of a survivor annuity application is 1 year for disabled widow(er)s and 6 months for full retirement age widow(er)s, mothers (fathers), children, and parents. Retroactivity for widow(er)s ages 60-61 is 6 months if it does not increase the age reduction, although this does not apply to surviving divorced spouses or remarried widow(er)s. Otherwise, there is generally no retroactivity for reduced age widow(er)s' annuities. Lump-sum death benefit applications must be filed within 2 years after the death of the employee. There is no time limit on filing for a residual payment.