Understanding the System
Mike Murburg, P.A. has exclusively practiced in the area of disability law for almost 30 years. Our sole focus on disability claims has allowed our team to acquire extensive knowledge and streamline our processes so we can help maximize your disability benefits.
A railroad retirement board disability attorney at our firm will review your case and explain your options for disability benefits, which may include Social Security disability, Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) total disability, RRB occupational disability or other programs. We then map a course of action to recover the payments to which you are entitled.
Applying for Railroad Retirement Board Disability
The Railroad Retirement Act was enacted in 1934 to protect the rights of railroad workers. In addition to providing age and service-based retirement annuities, the Railroad Retirement Act also provides workers with benefits for total and occupational disabilities.
To recover under the program, you must apply to the RRB. Our RRB disability attorney will guide you through each step of the process, which involves:
- Evaluating your eligibility for coverage based on total disability or occupational disability;
- Collecting and organizing evidence to support your medical claim;
- Filing an application and supporting evidence at the RRB’s field office;
- Scheduling an appointment at the RRB field office or, if you are unable to travel, at your hospital or your home;
- Notifying you of the RRB decision and following up as necessary.
The RRB typically makes a decision within 100 days from the date you filed your application.
Total and Occupational Disability Standards
The RRB disability program comprises two separate types of benefits for railroad workers with disabilities. Our legal team will explain the qualifications, processes and benefits related to:
- Total disability — payable to an employee of any age with a permanent total disability
- Occupational disability — payable to employees with specified years of service for the railroad industry, regardless of whether the worker is able to perform other types of jobs
RRB Disability Evidence
Railroad Retirement Board disability lawyers can help you gather the evidence you need to prove your claim. To avoid delays in the application process, our team creates a complete record of your medical condition, which may include:
- A report form issued by your personal doctor
- A release form authorizing the RRB to receive hospital, clinic and employer records related to your condition
- Information submitted by nonmedical sources, including vocational therapists
- Information from other relevant practitioners, such as chiropractors, audiologists and naturopathic physicians, who have knowledge about your condition
The RRB sometimes requests an examination at the agency’s expense to learn more about your medical condition or to resolve conflicts in the evidence.
Can I work after receiving my RRB or Social Security Benefits disability annuity benefits?
With reference to the RRB, when it is determined by the RRB (railroad retirement board) that you are disabled depending on your type of disability, whether it be occupational or total, different rules might apply.
With an occupational disability, if you are receiving RRB (railroad retirement board) disability benefits, generally, you have provem that you were unable to go back to your prior occupation for the railroad after 20 years of service. For a Total Disability case, you have probably worked fewer than twenty years for the railroads and have proven that you’re unable to do any work in the national economy whatsoever that exists in significant numbers.
As a general rule, individuals who receive railroad retirement disability benefits must report all work to the RRB. In addition, a railroad retirement disability annuity is absolutely not payable for any month in which the annuitant earns $990 or more, after deducting “disability related expenses”.
The RRB is rather draconian in its approach to working or returning to work. If you return to any kind of gainful activity, you place your benefits at risk. It is my usual advice as an attorney to my RRB clients that returning to work is not in their best financial interest if they want to keep their disability benefits. Unlike the Social Security administration, The railroad retirement board does not have any viable programs in trial work programs like the Social Security administration does. Moreover the RRB is notorious for giving different answers to the same question. Whatever answers that one gets over the phone are not usually reliable answers. So, if you speak or correspond with the RRB and do not get an answer in writing then with the RRB you always putting you yourself and your benefits at further risk.
With the RRB, If you return to work and receive gross earnings above $900.00, you really do place your RRB disability benefits and your entitlement to receive Medicare benefits at peril. Remember, the RRB can always be wrong in suspending your disability benefits but it will be up to you to fight the RRB in order to get your benefits back. If they take your benefits away these days claims that are being litigated in front of the RRB literally can take years to resolve. Can you afford to live if your RRB disability benefits get stopped? In the end, even if they pay you and lose, you will owe the RRB money, they will deduct the amounts that you owe from either your RRB disability benefits and/or from your retirement annuity once you reach your full retirement age.
If you return to “work” after being declared “disabled”, you are going to ask yourself, “All things considered, is it worth losing all the benefits I deserved and fought so hard for in exchange for a few hundred bucks?”.
By comparison to the RRB, the SSA (social security administration) is a bit lenient when it comes to people trying to return to work after being declared disabled. This may be due to the fact that railroad retirement board disability rates paid to railroaders are significantly higher than Social Security disability payment rates are.
For SSDI, you can only receive benefits if you cannot work a full time job, or enough to be considered substantial gainful activity ($1,260 per month, $2,110 if you’re blind). Therefore, most recipients receive SSDI in place of working. It is possible to work part time, but this can make it harder to prove you cannot work full time. If you are on SSDI already, you can’t start making the SGA amount regularly. To make it easier for you to go back to work, the SSA offers a nine-month trial period. During this TWP (trial work period) can receive full benefits for nine months while making over the SGA for nine months in order to test if you are able to work with your disability. In 2020, any month that you make more than $910 or work more than 80 hours if you’re self-employed is considered a trial month.
If it is determined that you cannot work after your trial period, you can go back to receiving SSDI as normal. If you do choose to go back to work, you will still be able to receive benefits for any month you don’t make over the SGA limit for 36 months. If, at any point during the 36 months you decide you can’t work, then you need to call the SSA and they will reinstate your benefits. After the 36 month period, the SSA will keep you application on file for five years, so will not have to complete a new application and your reinstatement will be expedited if you cannot work because of your disability.
As to your continued eligibility for Medicare as a Social Security Disability recipient, If you return to work after being adjudicated as disabled by the Social Security Administration and you lose your benefits, you are still eligible for Medicare for at least 93 months (seven years) after your nine-month trial period.
Railroad Retirement Board Disability Lawyers
Mike Murburg, P.A. evaluates whether you qualify for railroad retirement board disability benefits at a free consultation. Our firm does not charge lawyers’ fees or expenses unless we are successful at recovering compensation on your behalf. Call our railroad retirement board legal team at (813) 264-5363 or contact our Tampa law firm online to schedule your appointment today.