The RRB conducts informational programs to keep railroad employees informed of their benefit rights and responsibilities under the Railroad Retirement and Railroad Unemployment Insurance Acts, with emphasis on the necessity of prompt application for benefits. Yet cases still occur in which qualified railroad employees or their family members forfeit benefits either because they do not know that these benefits are available or because they are unaware of the steps they themselves must take to claim them.
The Railroad Retirement Act limits the retroactivity of retirement and survivor annuity applications. Depending on the type of annuity application, the retroactivity can be as long as one year or there can be no retroactivity at all. The RRB's regulations do allow the granting of an earlier annuity beginning date if an annuitant can establish that he or she was deterred from filing an application at an earlier date by some action or statement of an agency employee. However, while the RRB attempts to keep potential annuitants informed of their rights under the Railroad Retirement Act through press releases, informational bulletins and booklets, that information might not reach everyone. This is especially true when an individual left the railroad industry well in advance of retirement. Ultimately, the burden falls on the individual to secure benefit information.
Likewise under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, while the RRB may permit retroactive registration beyond the normal period when it can be shown that the employee was not at fault and that failure to apply for benefits was due to circumstances beyond the employee's control, it cannot approve delayed claims if the only reason for a delay in filing was lack of knowledge of the law.