Why Can't I Receive My Own Social Security And A Railroad Widow's Benefit?

Nov 27 2016 - 1:15pm

My late husband retired from railroad with 30+ yrs of employment in 1986. I have worked 30+ yrs at public work and paid into social security. My husband died Aug 08 and I started drawing widow annuity. But in Oct 2015, I applied on line for my social security (the amounts deducted from my cks for 30+ yrs).,And felt if I wasn't eligible . they would not send it. Well Social Security sent me a ck for $10,000+ deposit into my cking acct. Now, the RRB says I must pay this all back to them...........We both worked.....Where did my SS withholding go, if I can't receive it now? I don't have ANY money to pay them back with and if they deduct from my ck, I won't be able to keep my house or live,,,,,,,Any suggestions? Please help..I'm 72 yrs old and can't work anymore......I need to meet with them tomorrow......Please! Please!

Hi,

I'm sorry for your loss, and the situation in which you currently find yourself.

I'll start by explaining that the Social Security and Railroad pension programs are interrelated. Railroad benefits consist of 2 Tiers, and Tier 1 is essentially the equivalent of a Social Security benefit. If a person becomes entitled to both Social Security and Railroad benefits, they are only due the higher of their Social Security or Tier 1 Railroad benefit, not both. However, they can still receive their full Tier 2 railroad benefit, on top of the higher of the Social Security or Tier 1 payment.

It sounds like what happened in your case was that you were paid both your full Social Security payment as well as your full Tier 1 Railroad benefit for some period of time. I can't know for sure, but if that's the case, the overpayment that you've been notified of is probably correct. If you still have the overpaid funds, you will likely have to return them.

There is a procedure for waiver (https://www.rrb.gov/pdf/opa/pub_1611.pdf), or forgiveness, of an overpayment if the overpaid person was not at fault in causing the overpayment, AND if they would not be able to meet their necessary living expenses if they were required to repay the overpayment. From your description, it certainly sounds like you would meet both of these requirements, so you should probably consider filing for waiver of the overpayment.

Best, Jerry