The Railroad Retirement Act (RRA) replaces the Social Security Act for rail industry employers and employees and provides monthly annuities for employees based on age and service or on disability. The RRA is administered by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), an independent agency in the executive branch of the Federal government. The RRB does not administer the private pension plans of rail industry employers.
Benefits Subject to Property Division
Annuities under the RRA may be comprised of several components, with the most common components being known as tier I and tier II. Prior to 1983, section 14 of the RRA (45 U.S.C. § 231m) prohibited the partition of any part of an annuity under the RRA. See Hisquierdo v. Hisquierdo, 439 U.S. 572. However, section 14 of the RRA was amended in 1983 to provide that, with respect to annuity amounts payable for months beginning with September 1983, the Board must comply with a court order that characterizes the non-tier I benefits as property subject to distribution. The prohibition on the partition of the tier I component remains.
Spouse and Divorced Spouse Annuity Entitlement
In addition to providing monthly annuities for employees of the rail industry, the RRA also provides annuities for spouses, divorced spouses and survivors who meet certain eligibility requirements. However, such annuities are not subject to partition. See 20 CFR § 295.1(b). Furthermore, a court cannot mandate entitlement to an auxiliary annuity. The RRB will disregard any attempt by a state court to award the divorced spouse annuity or surviving divorced spouse annuity. Similarly, the RRB will disregard any attempt by a state court to bar entitlement to a divorced spouse annuity or surviving divorced spouse annuity. An eligible spouse or divorced spouse can receive an annuity under the RRA in addition to any divisible portion of the employee's annuity awarded to her or him as property by state court order. In contrast to a partition award, which awards the spouse or former spouse a share of the employee's annuity, the payment of an annuity to an eligible spouse or divorced spouse does not reduce the amount of the employee's annuity. Also, section 2 (c) of the RRA (45 U.S.C § 231a) was amended to provide entitlement to a divorced spouse annuity even if the employee has not yet filed for an annuity. See 20 CFR § 216.52. The requirements which must be met to be entitled to a divorced spouse annuity are also found in Appendix D.
The IB-2, Railroad Retirement and Survivor Benefits, is a booklet that explains retirement and survivor benefits under the RRA and may be obtained from any RRB field office. This information, along with additional material, may also be found under "legal information" at the RRB's web site www.rrb.gov.