Injured Railroad Worker Disability Benefits Lawyers

The Railroad Retirement Act and Railroad Retirement Board provide disability annuities for railroaders who become totally or occupationally disabled. Medicare coverage before age 65 is also available for totally disabled employees and those suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or chronic kidney disease.

Total Disability:

Provisions for total disability and occupational disability are different. A total disability annuity is based on permanent disability for all employment and is payable at any age to employees with at least 10 years (120 months) of creditable railroad service and, under certain conditions, to employees with five to nine years of creditable railroad service after 1995.

Occupational Disability:

An occupational disability annuity is based on disability for the employee’s regular railroad occupation and is payable at age 60 if the employee has 10 years (120 months) of railroad service, or at any age if the employee has at least 20 years (240 months) of service. A “current connection” with the railroad industry is also required for an occupational disability annuity. The current connection requirement is normally met if the employee worked for a railroad in at least 12 of the 30 months immediately preceding his or her annuity beginning date.

Medical Standards For Disability:

The medical standards for total disability and occupational disability are also different. An employee is considered to be totally disabled if medical evidence shows a permanent physical and/or mental impairment preventing the performance of any regular and gainful work. A condition is considered to be permanent if it has lasted, or may be expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

An employee is considered to be occupationally disabled if a physical and/or mental impairment prevents the employee from performing the duties of his or her regular railroad occupation, even though the employee may be able to perform other kinds of work. An employee’s regular occupation is generally that particular work he or she has performed for hire in more calendar months, which may or may not be consecutive, than any other work during the last five years; or work that was performed for hire in at least one-half of all the months, which must be consecutive, in which the employee worked for hire during the last 15 years.

Early Medicare:

Early Medicare coverage is available for the disabled before age 65 after a disabled employee annuitant has been entitled to monthly benefits based on total disability for at least 24 months and has a disability insured status under social security law. There is no 24-month waiting period for those who have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The fact that an employee is initially awarded an occupational disability annuity does not preclude early Medicare coverage if the employee’s physical and/or mental condition is such that he or she becomes totally and permanently disabled.

Waiting Period:

The railroad retirement disability annuity requirements also include a waiting period. A five-month waiting period beginning with the month after the month of the disability’s onset is required before railroad retirement disability annuity payments can begin. However, an applicant need not wait until this five-month period is over to file for benefits.

Necessary Documents:

Employees filing for disability annuities are required to submit medical evidence supporting their claim. Applicants should be prepared to furnish dates of hospitalization, names and dosages of medication, names of doctors, etc. Applicants may also be asked to take special medical examinations given by a doctor named by the RRB. If a disability applicant is receiving workers’ compensation or public disability benefits, notice of such payments must be submitted. Sources of medical evidence for railroad retirement disability purposes may include, but are not limited to, the applicant’s railroad employer, personal physician and hospital, the Social Security Administration or the agency paying workers’ compensation or public disability benefits. This evidence generally should not be more than 12 months old. In addition, proof of age and proof of any military service credit claimed, and a description of past work activity will also be required.

Where To File:

Applications for railroad retirement disability annuities are generally filed at one of the RRB’s field offices, or at one of the office’s Customer Outreach Program (CORP) service locations, or by telephone and mail. However, applications by rail employees for early Medicare coverage on the basis of kidney disease have to be filed with an office of the Social Security Administration, rather than the RRB.

To expedite filing for a railroad retirement disability annuity, disabled employees or a family member should call, write or send a secure message via the RRB’s website,, to the agency’s nearest field office to schedule an appointment. For the appointment, claimants should bring in any medical evidence in their possession and any medical records they can secure from their treating sources, such as their regular physician. Employees who are unable to personally visit an RRB office or meet an RRB representative at a CORP service location may request special assistance such as having an agency representative come to a hospital or the employee’s home. RRB personnel can assist disabled employees with their applications and advise them on how to obtain any additional medical evidence required or any other necessary documents or records.

“A disability is forever. You paid into the RRB disability insurance system and if you can no longer work because of your work-related injury or medical condition, we will make sure you get the benefits you are entitled to for you and your family.” Attorney Paula Rasmussen.

National Leaders In FELA And RRB Claims · Free Consultation · Contingency Fees

Hildebrand McLeod & Nelson LLP, with offices in Oakland and Los Angeles, California, is a nationally recognized railroad disability law firm focused on helping injured railroad workers and their families receive the RRB benefits they deserve. For more than 90 years, injured railroad workers have turned to our lawyers for help with their FELA disability benefits claims.

Before you file your claim, let us answer your questions. Call us at 800-447-7500 or send an email with a brief description of your employment-related disability. We will schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys as soon as possible.