The amount of a regular annuity is the total of portions which are computed separately under different formulas and called tiers, plus any vested dual benefit payment also due.
The first tier is calculated in generally the same way as a social security benefit. Any social security credits of an employee are combined with his or her railroad retirement credits for tier I computation purposes.
In computing tier I, an employee's creditable earnings are adjusted to take into account the changes in wage levels over a worker's lifetime. This procedure, called indexing, increases creditable earnings from past years to reflect average national wage levels just prior to the employee's first year of eligibility. The adjusted earnings are used to calculate average indexed monthly earnings, and a formula is applied to determine the gross tier I amount.
For those first eligible in 2016, the gross tier I is equal to:
- 90 percent of the first $856 of average indexed monthly earnings, plus
- 32 percent of the amount of these earnings over $856 up to $5,157 plus
- 15 percent of these earnings in excess of $5,157.
For employees with less than 10 years of railroad service, tier I benefits are calculated only if the employee has at least 5 years of service after 1995 and an insured status under Social Security Act rules (usually 40 quarters of coverage), counting both railroad retirement and social security covered earnings.
Delayed retirement credits
Tier I benefits are increased by a certain percentage for each month an employee delays retirement past full retirement age, up until age 70. For those born January 2, 1943, or later, the delayed retirement credit is 2/3 of 1 percent per month (8 percent per year). Those born prior to January 2, 1943, earn a lesser percentage credit. Delayed retirement credits are not given to an employee with less than 10 years of railroad service, even if the employee is over full retirement age when retiring from his or her railroad job, if the employee is also entitled to an age-reduced social security benefit and the beginning date of that social security benefit precedes the beginning date of his or her railroad retirement annuity.
For employees retiring between age 62 and full retirement age with less than 30 years of service, age reductions are applied separately to the components of an annuity. As mentioned earlier, the full retirement age is gradually rising from 65 to 67, depending on the year of birth (see Table 4 for more information). The maximum annuity reduction for retirement at age 62 is gradually increasing from 20 percent to 30 percent. This does not affect those who retire at ages 60 or 61 with 30 years of service.
The full retirement age for employee and spouse benefits increases from 65 to 66 and from 66 to 67 at the rate of two months per year over two separate 6-year periods. These changes also affect how reduced benefits are computed for early retirement. The increase in full retirement age from age 65 to age 66 affects those people who were born in the years 1938 through 1942. The full retirement age will remain at age 66 for people born in the years 1943 through 1954. The increase in full retirement age from age 66 to age 67 affects those who were born in the years 1955 through 1959. For people who were born in 1960 or later the full retirement age will be age 67.
Reduced benefits continue to be available but at greater reductions. The early-retirement reduction factor for an employee is 1/180 for each of the first 36 months of the reduction period regardless of the age of initial entitlement and decreases to 1/240 for each month (if any) over 36, as mentioned earlier. This will result in a gradual increase in the reduction at age 62 to 30 percent for an employee once the age 67 retirement age is in effect.
If an employee has less than 10 years of railroad service and is already entitled to an age-reduced social security benefit, the age reduction in his or her tier I will be based on the age reduction applicable on the beginning date of the employee's social security benefit, even if the employee is already of full retirement age on the beginning date of his or her railroad retirement annuity.
Age reductions are required in the tier I annuity amounts of 30-year employees who retired at ages 60-61 before 2002 and attained age 60 or completed 30 years of service after June 1984. The age reductions are applied only to the tier I annuity portion. If an employee affected by this provision was born before 1938 and attained 60/30 eligibility after December 1985, tier I is permanently reduced by approximately 20 percent. For those born after 1937 who retired before 2002, the reduction gradually increased as described earlier. In both cases, the tier I amount is frozen until the first month throughout which the employee is age 62. It is then recomputed to reflect interim increases in national wage levels and will become subject to future cost-of-living increases. There is no reduction if the employee retired at age 62 or older with 30 years of service, or at age 60 with 30 years of service and retirement is after 2001.
(See Table 4 for more information.)
Workers' compensation or public disability benefit reductions
For employees who are under full retirement age and receiving a disability annuity, the tier I amount is, under certain circumstances, reduced for receipt of workers' compensation or public disability benefits.
Social security reductions
After any required age reduction, the tier I amount is reduced by the amount of any social security benefits also payable but not to an amount below zero.
Reductions for public, non-profit, or foreign pensions
For employees who attain eligibility for both tier I benefits and certain government pension or other payments after 1985, a reduction may be required for receipt of a public pension based, in part or in whole, on employment not covered by railroad retirement or social security after 1956. This also applies to payments from a non-profit organization or from certain foreign governments or employers. Usually, an employee's tier I benefit will not be reduced by more than 1/2 of his or her pension from noncovered employment. However, if the employee is under full retirement age and receiving a disability annuity, the tier I benefit may be reduced by an added amount if the pension from noncovered employment is a public disability benefit.
The second tier of a regular annuity is computed under a separate formula, and is based on railroad service alone. Tier II benefits are equal to seven-tenths of 1 percent of the product which is obtained by multiplying an individual's years of service by such individual's average monthly compensation using the tier II tax base in the 60 months of highest earnings. The tier II component is reduced by 25 percent of any gross employee vested dual benefit amount due.
Age reductions required for those employees retiring between age 62 and full retirement age with less than 30 years of service are also applied to the tier II component of an annuity. The reduction is 1/180 for each of the first 36 months the employee is under full retirement age when his or her annuity begins and 1/240 for each additional month (if any).
Full retirement age is gradually rising as mentioned earlier. However, if an employee had any creditable railroad service before August 12, 1983, the retirement age for tier II purposes will remain 65.
Employees with 5-9 years of creditable service, if at least 5 years were after 1995, are eligible for tier II benefits the first full month they are age 62. Their tier II benefits are subject to the same age reductions that apply to employees with 10-29 years of service. If eligible on the basis of total disability, a tier II benefit is not payable until age 62 and that amount is reduced for early retirement.
Amount of Vested Dual Benefit Payment
To determine this additional annuity amount for a retired employee meeting the vesting requirements, the RRB computes a social security benefit based solely on the individual's railroad service before 1975, and a social security benefit based solely on social security covered earnings before 1975. The vested dual benefit is the amount by which the total of these two computations exceeds a social security benefit based on combined railroad and social security covered earnings before 1975.
The vested dual benefit is increased by the cumulative cost-of-living percentage increases applicable to tier I benefits that occurred between January 1, 1975, and the date of retirement or January 1, 1982, whichever was earlier. The computed amount is then frozen; that is, no further cost-of-living increases are applied thereafter. The amount of any vested dual benefit due is added to the tier portions and paid as part of the regular annuity.
The same age reduction applied to the tier I component is applied to the vested dual benefit component of an annuity for those employees retiring before full retirement age with less than 30 years of service.
Supplemental Annuity Formula
The amount of a supplemental annuity awarded after 1974 is equal to $23 plus $4 for each year of service over 25, up to a maximum of $43. A fraction of $4 is added for each fractional year of service.
If a retired employee also receives a private pension paid for entirely or in part by a railroad, the supplemental annuity is subject to reduction. The reduction is equal to the amount of the pension that is based on the employer's contributions. The reduction applies whether the employee receives a monthly pension or elects a lump sum instead of a monthly pension. There is no reduction for any part of a private pension based on the employee's own contributions. If the employer reduces the private pension because of the supplemental annuity, the amount of the reduction is restored to the supplemental annuity, but not over the $43 maximum. There is no reduction to the supplemental annuity for a pension paid by a railroad labor organization.