The Railroad Retirement Act is a federal law that provides retirement and disability benefits for qualified railroad employees, (like NJ Transit) spouse annuities, and survivor benefits for family members. The US Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) administers these benefit programs and has administrative responsibilities under the Social Security Act for certain benefit payments and railroad workers’ Medicare coverage. Employers and employees covered by the Railroad Retirement Act pay higher retirement taxes than those covered by the Social Security Act. As a result, railroad retirement benefits are higher than social security benefits If you are permanently disabled due to an injury or sickness, (even if unrelated to your railroad work) you may be entitled to receive one of two kinds of RRB disability pension. It would be wise to consult a New Jersey railroad disability attorney in such circumstances.
If you are permanently disabled from any regular and gainful work (not just your railroad job) then you may be entitled to an RRB total disability pension. You may be entitled to an RRB occupational disability pension if you are permanently disabled from performing any aspect of the duties of your regular railroad occupation. Both types of disability pensions have restrictions based on the length of service to the employer as well as limits to the amount you can earn while collecting disability benefits.
Employees with 5 to 9 years of service, if at least 5 years were after 1995, may qualify for an annuity based on total, but not occupational, disability if they have a disability insured status under social security law. A disability insured status is generally established when an employee has social security or railroad retirement earnings credits in 20 calendar quarters in a period of 40 consecutive quarters ending in, or after, the quarter in which the disability began.
Applications for railroad retirement disability annuities are generally filed at one of the RRB’s field offices, at one of the office’s Customer Outreach Program (CORP) service locations, or by telephone and mail. However, applications by railroad employees for early Medicare coverage on the basis of kidney disease have to be filed with the Social Security Administration, rather than the RRB.
For all claims under the Railroad Retirement Act and Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, there is a three-stage review and appeals process within the RRB.
A person dissatisfied with the initial decision on his or her claim may first request a review by the RRB’s Reconsideration section. He or she has 60 days from the date on which notice of the initial decision is mailed to him or her to file a written request for reconsideration. This step is mandatory before an appeal may be filed with the RRB’s Bureau of Hearings and Appeals.
If dissatisfied with the reconsideration a person may appeal to the RRB’s Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. An appellant has 60 days from the date on which notice of the reconsideration is mailed to the claimant to file an appeal. The Bureau of Hearings and Appeals may, if necessary, further investigate the case and obtain reports through the agency’s field representatives, designated medical examiners, and others who may be in a position to furnish information pertinent to the appellant’s claim. When the appeal involves a question of fact, the appellant has the right to an oral hearing before a hearings officer. In most cases, video conferencing or phone hearings are held. In cases where an in-person hearing is held, it may be conducted in the RRB office closest to the appellant’s home.
An appellant may further appeal to the three-member Board, which heads the agency, within 60 days from the date on which notice of the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals’ decision is mailed to the appellant. This appeal must be filed using RRB Form HA-1. The three-member Board ordinarily will not accept additional evidence or conduct a hearing.
Appellants dissatisfied with the three-member Board’s final decision may then file a petition with the appropriate U.S. Court of Appeals to review the Board’s decision. In cases involving retirement, disability, or survivor claims, the petition for review must be filed within one year after notice of the three-member Board’s decision has been mailed to the appellant.
Failure to request reconsideration or to file an appeal within the allocated time period will result in forfeiture of further appeal rights unless there is good cause for the delay.
Just like Social Security Disability claims, Railroad Disability claims can be lengthy and complicated. An experienced New Jersey Railroad Disability Attorney can help collect and present the required evidence and navigate the system. The RRB does not set attorneys’ fees but the fee agreement between attorney and claimant must be in writing, signed by both parties, and submitted to the RRB for approval. Unlike Social Security claims, the RRB will not deduct either fees or the costs expended by your attorney on your behalf in the prosecution of your claim. Team Law will handle your claim on a contingency benefit. Our fee is 25% of past-due benefits. There is no legal fee unless the Claimant recovers past-due benefits. A free initial consultation is offered. Contact us today for more information.
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