Why Can't My Father Receive His Railroad Retirement And Social Security Widower's Benefits?

Nov 29 2016 - 3:00pm

My Father is 96 yrs. of age he is retired from the railroad in 1980 and is receiving his benefits. His wife passed away in 2009 after working for Diebold's and having in all her quarters and was receiving social security. The RRB tells my Father he can't get her social security as a sole survivor. He does not collect what he had built up in SS because he didn't have enough quarters.They tell him that Tier 1 is SS . He and I am confused because he is not wanting to collect his SS but hers a sole survivor. Is there any way you could possibly help him reference this matter? I thank you in advance, Don and my Father William

Hi Don,

The Railroad Retirement and Social Security programs are separate, but interrelated. Railroad retirement benefits consist of 2 tiers. Tier 1 is essentially an equivalent of Social Security, whereas tier 2 is like a supplemental company pension based on a person's railroad work and earnings.

If a person is entitled to both Social Security and Railroad retirement benefits, they do not receive both benefits in full. Instead, they receive their full tier 2 Railroad benefit, but only the higher of their tier 1 railroad benefit or their Social Security benefit (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0301601125). It doesn't matter on whose record the person is eligible. They could be eligible for both Social Security and Railroad retirement on their own work record, or Social Security on their own record and Railroad benefits on a spouse's record, or vice versa.

This same principle applies to people who are entitled to more than one type of Social Security benefit (e.g. Retirement and Widower's Benefits). The dually entitled person receives only the equivalent of the higher of the 2 benefits, not both benefits in full. Same with a person who is dually entitled to Railroad and Social Security, except in that case they still get their full tier 2 payment in addition to the higher of their Social Security or tier 1 Railroad benefits.

For further information, you may want to refer to the Railroad Retirement Board website: https://www.rrb.gov/opa/qa/pub_1606.asp.

Best, Jerry