The railroad retirement system is based on three Federal laws: the Railroad Retirement Act, the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, and the Railroad Retirement Tax Act. The first two of these Acts are administered by the RRB, and the third, by the Internal Revenue Service of the U.S. Treasury. The RRB also participates in the administration of the Federal Medicare health insurance program. In past years, the RRB assisted in the administration of certain employee protection provisions of the Regional Rail Reorganization Act, the Northeast Rail Service Act, the Milwaukee Railroad Restructuring Act, and the Bankrupt Railroad Service Preservation and Employee Protection Act.
An independent agency in the executive branch of the Federal Government, the RRB is administered by three members appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. By law, the Labor Member is appointed upon recommendation of railroad labor organizations, the Management Member upon recommendation of railroad employers, and the third member, the Chairman, is, in effect, independent of employees and employers and represents the public interest. The terms of office are 5 years and are arranged so as to expire in different calendar years. The President also appoints an Inspector General for the RRB.
The primary function of the RRB is the determination and payment of benefits under the retirement-survivor and unemployment-sickness programs. To this end, the agency employs field representatives to assist railroad personnel and their families in filing claims for benefits, examiners to adjudicate the claims, and information technology staff, equipment and programs to maintain earnings records, calculate benefits and process payments.
The RRB also employs actuaries to predict the future income and outlays of the railroad retirement trust funds, statisticians and economists to provide vital data, and attorneys to interpret legislation and represent the agency in litigation. The Inspector General employs auditors and investigators to detect any waste, fraud or abuse in the benefit programs.
The headquarters of the RRB is located in the William O. Lipinski Federal Building at 844 North Rush Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611-1275. The agency also maintains field offices across the country in localities easily accessible to large numbers of railroad workers.