The following letter was submitted by the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, of which the SMART Transportation Division and Mechanical Division are members, on behalf of SMART and a number of other labor unions to President Joe Biden earlier this week.


November 12, 2023

Dear President Biden:

On behalf of the undersigned national rail labor unions, we write to unanimously recommend and support Johnathan D. Bragg to be re-nominated to serve as the Labor Member on the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). He has demonstrated excellent service on the Board for the last four years since his confirmation in early 2019, and we request that he be nominated for another term to serve on the Board.

John Bragg, labor’s member on the Railroad Retirement Board, addresses the Transportation Division session at the SMART Leadership Conference on July 31, 2023.

As you know, employees in the railroad industry are covered under a separate retirement system which is administered by the RRB. This unique system, funded solely by the industry and its employees, provides retirement, unemployment, disability and survivor benefits for millions of rail workers. These benefits and services are essential to the lives of all employees and their families. To help ensure that the system protects the interest of rail workers, Section 7(A) of the Railroad Retirement Act of 1974 dictates that the President must nominate one candidate to the Board based on the “recommendations made by representatives of the employees.” We strongly endorse Johnathan D. Bragg to continue serving as the Labor member for the RRB.

Mr. Bragg has shown great leadership on the Board and successfully represented and advocated for rail workers during one of the most trying times in the rail industry. Like many industries, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many hardships for rail workers, including layoffs, illness and even unfortunately death. Congress included provisions in the COVID-19 relief packages to provide temporary additional benefits, such as enhanced rail worker unemployment benefits, that were administered through the RRB; Mr. Bragg and his staff were instrumental in successfully rolling out and implementing those benefits in record time. During his tenure, Mr. Bragg has also advocated for and provided oversight of the long overdue modernization of the RRB’s IT systems that will bring RRB’s 1960’s IT systems into the 21st century and facilitate much-needed improvements, such as allowing workers to file benefit claims online.

In addition to his leadership and service on the Board, Mr. Bragg hails from a long line of railroaders in his family. He began his own rail career 23 years ago as a freight conductor, and later a signalman, and knows the rail worker’s perspective firsthand. As a dedicated rail worker and union member, he climbed the union leadership ranks as a Local Chairman, Grand Lodge Representative, and National Vice-President. He also represented the BRS as a permanent Board Member of the National Railroad Adjustment Board. Mr. Bragg’s long and accomplished career has allowed him to excel in his current role. If granted a second term as the RRB’s Labor Member, Mr. Bragg will continue bringing an invaluable level of experience, knowledge, and understanding of the needs of rail workers, retirees, and their families who rely on the system.

For these reasons, we strongly recommend you re-nominate Johnathan D. Bragg to serve as the Labor member of the RRB as you work to ensure the agency’s full board member capacity.

Sincerely,

American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA)
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET)-IBT
Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED)-IBT
Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (BRC)
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS)
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM)
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers (IBB)
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers–Mechanical Division (SMART-MD)
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers–Transportation Division (SMART-TD)
National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU (NCFO)
Transportation Communications International Union (TCU)
Transport Workers Union of America (TWU)

The SMART Transportation Division has been asking for help and advocacy from our members this week to reach out to Congress and let them know that it is not OK to gut the federal spending for Amtrak. Late Thursday, it appears that your voices have been heard loud and clear and have had an impact!

The House of Representatives prepared its budget bill for the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), and it called for an apocalyptic cut to AMTRAK’s budget. The version of the budget that came out of committee and was slated for a floor vote Nov. 2 featured a 64% cut to Amtrak.

This proposed funding cut would have been devastating to thousands of SMART-TD members who work in passenger rail. Fallout from the job cuts that would inevitably come from this short-sighted effort to slash and burn Amtrak would have also impacted the solvency of the Railroad Retirement Board, which would be a significant problem for everyone in railroad industry on both the freight and passenger sides.

Through the hard work of rail labor and the advocacy of our members and passenger railroad advocates reaching out to their members of Congress, the vote on this budget bill has been halted this week. Several Republican reps have expressed that this “halting” of the vote is directly related to concerns raised about Amtrak cuts.

In short, YOUR VOICE IS BEING HEARD!

While this is very welcome news, the threat is not over. This THUD budget bill is scheduled to come back to the House floor next week. We need all our members to contact their congressional representatives and express in no uncertain terms that cuts to Amtrak funding and subsequently the Railroad Retirement Board is not a responsible way to patch the holes in this nation’s budget.

Please follow this link to SMART-TD’s Legislative Action Center to send a pre-written message today! Together we can protect our brothers and sisters and maintain the pension plan that we all worked for!

This letter was co-signed by Greg Regan, the president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, of which the SMART Transportation Division and SMART Mechanical Divisions are members.

July 31, 2023

The Honorable Patty Murray
Chair
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable Susan Collins
Vice Chair
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable Kay Granger
Chairwoman
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

Dear Chair Murray, Vice Chair Collins, Chairwoman Granger, and Ranking Member DeLauro:

On behalf of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), we write to express our strong opposition to the limitation on administrative funding for the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) included in the fiscal year (FY) 2024 House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill and to urge you to adopt the limitation included in the FY 24 Senate Labor-HHS bill.

As passed by the House Labor-HHS Subcommittee on July 14, 2023, the House FY 24 bill would cap RRB’s administrative funding at $103 million, a $25 million decrease from FY 23 funding, which is maintained in the Senate FY 24 bill, and over $35 million below the President’s FY 24 Budget Request. This limitation would severely impact the ability of the RRB to process retirements and sickness benefits for railroad employees and retirees living in every state and every congressional district. At this funding level, RRB would be forced to cut approximately 23 percent of its current workforce, dramatically slowing down processing times and service for beneficiaries. This funding limitation comes at a time when RRB is in dire need of more employees and has consistently asked Congress to increase the administrative funding limitation to better meet the needs of the over 530,000 beneficiaries currently served by RRB.

This new limitation is especially troubling because, though it was included under the guise of lowering federal spending, it does not cut spending at all. The overwhelming majority of funding for the RRB, including the administrative funding capped by this bill, comes from payroll taxes paid by railroad employers and railroad employees. No other taxpayers or businesses pay into the fund, and the RRB does not receive any funding from the U.S. Treasury. Therefore, caps on RRB spending do not reduce the deficit or slow federal spending. Further, this limitation on funding would not reduce the amount of money paid into the fund by railroads or railroad workers. All this limitation will do is force RRB to cut staff and reduce service to hard-working railroad employees and retirees.

We urge you to remove this draconian limit on RRB’s administrative funding and support the limitation in the Senate bill, which maintains FY 23 funding levels and allows the agency to maintain its current employment levels and continue providing strong service to the over 530,000 beneficiaries currently served by the employees as well as 200,000 active railroad employees relying on these benefits in the future.

Sincerely,

Ian Jefferies
President and CEO
Association of American Railroads

Chuck Baker
President
American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association

Greg Regan
President
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

PDF Version

Railroad Retirement Board Labor Member John Bragg released the following statement on July 18:

John Bragg

The Office of the Labor Member is pleased to announce that our 2023 Pre-Retirement Seminar presentation is now available to view online. This program is a modification of our Informational Conferences, which we began decades ago.  We designed this program to help educate those nearing retirement about the benefits available to them, and what they can expect during the application process.

This popular program has become a critical resource to RRB customers and employees alike. It helps promote a better understanding within the railroad community of our benefit programs, and in turn, improves the effectiveness of our benefit program operations.

Unfortunately, we were limited to the number of in-person seminars we could schedule this year and are pleased to be able to again offer an online version of the program.  The feedback we’ve received from those who have viewed the online version of the seminar has been very positive.

For more information about the Pre-Retirement Seminars, visit RRB.gov/PRS.

Because we cover several aspects of Railroad Retirement benefits in great detail, the entire video is over an hour long. View shorter segments of the program by selecting a seminar topic on the PRS web page. Available topics include:  Retired Employee and Spouse Benefits, Spouse Annuities, Working After Retirement, Survivor Benefits, and Items Affecting All Retirement and Survivor Benefits.

The success of our educational programming is made possible with your long-standing partnership. We greatly appreciate your support in promoting this valuable program.

Each year, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) prepares a Form BA-6, Certificate of Service Months and Compensation, for every railroad employee with creditable railroad compensation in the previous calendar year. The RRB will mail the forms to employees during the first half of June. Anyone with compensation reported in 2022 who has not received Form BA-6 by July 1, or who needs a replacement, should contact an RRB field office by calling toll-free at 1-877-772-5772. A statement can also be requested online by clicking the “Request Documents” button at RRB.gov/myRRB, or by using the toll-free number’s automated menu at the end of the recorded greeting to request a statement of service months and compensation.

Form BA-6 provides employees with a record of their Railroad Retirement service and compensation. The information shown is used to determine whether an employee qualifies for benefits and the amount of those benefits; therefore, it is important that employees review their Form BA-6 to see whether their own records of service months and creditable compensation agree with the form.

When reviewing the 2022 compensation total, employees should be aware that only annual earnings up to $147,000 are creditable for Railroad Retirement purposes in that year, and that $147,000 is the maximum amount shown on the form. In addition, the form shows service credited on a month-by-month basis for 2021, 2020, and 2019, when the maximum creditable compensation was $142,800, $137,700, and $132,900, respectively. The BA-6 also lists the employer(s) reporting the employee’s 2022 service and compensation.

Besides the months of service reported by employers, Form BA-6 shows the number of any additional service months deemed by the RRB. Deemed service months may be credited under certain conditions to an employee who did not work in all 12 months of the year, but had creditable Tier II earnings exceeding the monthly proration of the creditable Tier II earnings maximum for the year. However, the total reported and deemed service months may never exceed 12 in a calendar year, and no service months (reported or deemed) can be credited after retirement, severance, resignation, discharge or death.

The BA-6 form also indicates the number of months of verified military service creditable as service under the Railroad Retirement Act if the service was previously reported to the RRB. Employees are encouraged to submit proofs of age and/or military service in advance of their actual retirement. Filing these proofs with the RRB in advance will streamline the benefit application process and help prevent payment delays.

For employees who received separation or severance payments, the section of the form designated “Taxable Amount” shows the amounts of separation allowance or severance payments that were subject to Railroad Retirement Tier II taxes. This information is shown on the form because a lump sum, approximating part or all of the Tier II taxes deducted from such payments made after 1984, which did not provide additional Tier II credits, may be payable by the RRB upon retirement to qualified employees or to survivors if the employee dies before retirement. The amount of an allowance included in an employee’s regular compensation is shown under “Compensation Amount.”

Form BA-6 also shows, in the section designated “Employee Contributions,” the cumulative amount of Tier II Railroad Retirement payroll taxes paid by the employee over and above Tier I Social Security equivalent payroll taxes. While the RRB does not collect or maintain payroll tax information, the agency computes this amount from its compensation records in order to advise retired employees of their payroll tax contributions for federal income tax purposes.

In the lower-right corner of the form, there is a field that indicates if the employee is eligible to claim unemployment or sickness benefits. The RRB provides detailed instructions for reviewing the form on the agency website at RRB.gov/BA6.

There are instructions on the back of the form and the web page on how to file a protest if service and compensation totals are incorrect. The law limits to four years the period during which corrections to service and compensation amounts can be made. Also, if personal information is incorrect or incomplete, such as the name, birthdate, or address, the employee should contact an RRB field office to have it corrected. For most people, the address of the RRB office serving their area is provided on the form along with the RRB’s nationwide toll-free number (1-877-772-5772).

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, and a subsequent sequestration order to implement mandated cuts, Railroad Retirement Board-administered unemployment and sickness insurance benefits were reduced by a set percentage that is subject to revision at the beginning of each fiscal year. In December 2020, in an effort to minimize the effects the COVID-19 pandemic was having on the rail industry, Congress passed the Continued Assistance to Rail Workers Act (CARWA).

This legislation temporarily suspended the sequestration, and railroad workers who were eligible for unemployment and sickness benefits from RRB went back to receiving the full dollar amount of their benefits. This legislation was intended to be temporary, relieving out-of-work rail employees during the pandemic, and its language stated that the suspension of the benefit cuts would end 30 days after the date the COVID-19 state of emergency was terminated.

On April 10, 2023, President Biden officially declared the end of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency by signing House Joint Resolution 7. The 30-day clock to the reinstatement of the RRB benefit cuts runs out next month.

To avoid these cuts, the Railroad Employment Equity and Fairness (REEF) Act was introduced April 20 in the House by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.-District 9), a chief deputy whip and a senior member of the House Budget Committee, alongside Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.-District 1), Rep. Rick Larsen (Wash.-District 2), Rep. Don Bacon (Neb.-District 2), Rep. Chuy Garcia (Ill.-District 4), and Rep. Pete Stauber (Minn.-District 8). U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), introduced the bill in the Senate.

The current RRB daily rate for unemployment is $85 and pays out five days weekly for biweekly payment of $850. After the emergency relief’s expiration, the daily rate for unemployment will become $80.15 daily for a biweekly total of $801.50. This bill will reduce the payment of our out-of-work brothers and sisters by $48.50 per pay period.

Sickness benefits paid to an employee within six months from the date last worked for a reason other than an on-the-job injury are also subject to regular Tier I Railroad Retirement taxes, resulting in a further reduction of 7.65%. Applying the 5.7% reduction to these sickness benefits will result in a maximum two-week total received of $740.23.

If these cuts seem aimed at the most-vulnerable population within our union, that is because they are. The sequestration for unemployed, sick, and injured railroaders benefits that the pandemic relief temporarily eliminated already has been done away with for other federal retirement plans. This clawing-back of funds, implemented 12 years ago, is literally only applicable to the Railroad Retirement Board. Allowing the CARWA Act to fall off the table accomplishes nothing other than taking a $50 bill out of the hands of our out-of-work brothers and sisters every other week while they are struggling to bridge the gap until they can get back to the rails.

SMART-TD is asking you to rally around our own by contacting your House representative as well as your U.S. senators to demand they support a permanent end to sequestration of railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits. By reintroducing and passing the REEF Act, Congress can restore railroaders’ hard-earned benefits.

This sequestration is out of date, and unfairly targeted at our profession. Please follow the link provided to make your voice heard to protect the hard-working men and women in your crew base when they are in financial difficulty.

Union officials, auxiliary members and their spouses as well as rail employees and spouses within five years of retirement are welcome to attend one of a series of Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) pre-retirement seminars.

The spring schedule is as follows:

DateSite
April 28, 2023Courtyard by Marriott, 14635 Baldwin Park Towne Center, Baldwin Park, Calif.
May 05, 2023AJC Federal Building, 1240 E 9th Street, 31st Floor Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio
May 12, 2023Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, 28500 West Park Hwy., Ashland, Neb.
May 19, 2023US Customs House, 721 19th Street, First Floor Room 181, Denver, Colo.
June 9, 2023Richard Boling Federal Building, 601 E. 12th Street, Room G-64 (Cafe Conference Room), Kansas City, Mo.
June 23, 2023Tinley Park Convention Center, 18451 Convention Center Drive, Tinley Park, Ill.
Spring 2023 Railroad Retirement Board pre-retirement seminar schedule.

While most of the program focuses on various aspects of Railroad Retirement benefits, each seminar closes with a brief presentation on railroad unemployment and sickness benefits to help prepare union officers for sharing reliable information with members.

How to register

Online registration is required to ensure accommodations and materials for all attendees. 

Security screening is required for seminars hosted inside any federal buildings. Bring a current, valid photo ID (issued by state/federal government); no weapons permitted. 

Attendees are encouraged to bring original records (or certified copies) of documents required to file a Railroad Retirement application (such as proof of age, marriage, or military service), along with an additional copy of each item to leave with field service staff. 

Visit RRB.gov/PRS to register.

Select your local seminar from the schedule listed, click the register button, enter your infor­mation, and hit submit.

To RSVP on paper instead: select your local seminar from the schedule listed, find the blank registration form (PDF) to print and complete, then mail or fax it to your local RRB field office. Contact information for each office hosting a seminar is accessible through the Field Office Locator at RRB.gov.

Event details and registration will be available approximately 70 days in advance of each seminar, and registration will be closed for any seminar that reaches capacity.

Please inform RRB if you sign up for a seminar and become unable to attend. 

The amounts of compensation subject to Railroad Retirement Tier I and Tier II payroll taxes will go up in 2023, while the tax rates on employers and employees will stay the same. In addition, unemployment insurance contribution rates paid by railroad employers will include a surcharge of 1.5%, down from 3.5% in 2022, due to an improved employment outlook since the beginning of the pandemic.

Tier I and Medicare Tax — The Railroad Retirement Tier I payroll tax rate on covered rail employers and employees for 2023 remains at 7.65%. The Railroad Retirement Tier I tax rate is the same as the Social Security tax, and for withholding and reporting purposes is divided into 6.20% for retirement and 1.45% for Medicare hospital insurance. The maximum amount of an employee’s earnings subject to the 6.20% rate increases from $147,000 to $160,200 in 2023, with no maximum on earnings subject to the 1.45% Medicare rate.

An additional Medicare payroll tax of 0.9% applies to an individual’s income exceeding $200,000, or $250,000 for a married couple filing a joint tax return. While employers will begin withholding the additional Medicare tax as soon as an individual’s wages exceed the $200,000 threshold, the final amount owed or refunded will be calculated as part of the individual’s federal income tax return. 

Tier II Tax — The Railroad Retirement Tier II tax rates in 2023 will remain at 4.9% for employees and 13.1% for employers. The maximum amount of earnings subject to Railroad Retirement Tier II taxes in 2023 will increase from $109,200 to $118,800. Tier II tax rates are based on an average account benefits ratio reflecting Railroad Retirement fund levels. Depending on this ratio, the Tier II tax rate for employees can be between 0% and 4.9%, while the Tier II rate for employers can range between 8.2% and 22.1%.

Unemployment Insurance Contributions —  Employers, but not employees, pay railroad unemployment insurance contributions, which are experience-rated by employer. The Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) also provides for a surcharge in the event the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Account balance falls below an indexed threshold amount. The accrual balance of the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Account was $112.7 million on June 30, 2022. Since the balance was below the indexed $100 million threshold (currently $137.9 million), but above the $50 million indexed threshold (currently $67.0 million), this results in a 1.5% surcharge in 2023. There was a surcharge of 3.5% in 2022 and 2.5% in 2021.

As a result, the unemployment insurance contribution rates on railroad employers in 2023 will range from the minimum rate of 2.15% to the maximum of 12.0% on monthly compensation up to $1,895, an increase from $1,755 in 2022.

In 2023, the minimum rate of 2.15% will apply to 80% of covered employers, with 6% paying the maximum rate of 12.0%. New employers will pay an unemployment insurance contribution rate of 2.82%, which represents the average rate paid by all employers in the period 2019-2021.

Tax TypeRate – EmployeeRate – EmployerAnnual Taxable MaximumAnnual Tax Amount Employer
Tier 1 – Medicare*1.45%1.45%No MaximumNo Maximum
Tier 1 – Railroad Retirement6.20%6.20%$160,200.00$9,932.40
Tier 2 – Railroad Retirement4.90%13.10%$118,800.00$15,562.80
Total12.55%20.75%$25,495.20
*Additional Medicare Tax: Employees will pay an additional 0.9% Medicare Tax on earnings above $200,000 (for those who file an individual return) or $250,000 (for those who file a joint return). This additional Medicare tax rate is not reflected in the tax rates shown above.

Note: Tier 1 Medicare and Tier 1 Railroad Retirement tax rates are equivalent to Social Security tax rates set for 2023. Tier 2 Railroad Retirement tax rates do not apply to employees subject to Social Security.

Below are PDFs of various releases from the RRB on 2023 tax rates:

RRB Program Letter 2023-02 (PL 23-02)

RRB Reminders for 2023 (G-34)

Railroad Retirement and Unemployment Insurance Taxes in 2023 (NR 2207)

Many railroad employees have served in the Armed Forces of the United States. Under certain conditions, their military service may be creditable as railroad service under the Railroad Retirement Act (RRA).

The following questions and answers provide information on how military service may be credited toward Railroad Retirement benefits.

1. Under what conditions can military service be credited as railroad service?

The intent behind the crediting of military service under the RRA is to prevent career railroad employees from losing retirement credits while performing active-duty military service during a war or national emergency period. Therefore, to be creditable as compensation under the RRA, service in the U.S. Armed Forces must be preceded by railroad service in the same or preceding calendar year. With the exceptions noted later, the employee must also have entered military service when the United States was at war or in a state of national emergency, or have served in the armed forces involuntarily. Military service is involuntary when an employee is required by law, such as Selective Service System conscription or troop call-up from a reserve unit, to leave railroad service to perform active duty military service.

Only active-duty military service is creditable under the RRA. A person is considered to have been on active duty while commissioned, or enrolled, in the active service of the Armed Forces of the United States (including the U.S. Coast Guard), or while ordered to federal active duty from any reserve component of the uniformed armed forces.

2. What are some examples of creditable service performed by a member of a reserve component, such as the Army Reserve?

Any military service a reservist is required to perform as a result of a call-up to active duty, such as during a partial mobilization, is creditable under the RRA, so long as the military service is preceded by railroad service in the same or preceding year.

Annual training duty as a member of a reserve component of a uniformed service is also considered active duty and may be creditable, provided the railroad employee service requirement is met. The period of active duty for training also includes authorized travel time to and from any such training duty. However, weekend alone or evening reserve duty is not creditable.

Active duty in a state National Guard or state Air National Guard unit may be creditable only while the reservist was called to federal active duty by Congress or the president of the United States. Emergency call-up of the National Guard by a governor for riot or flood control would not be creditable.

3. What are the dates of the war or national emergency periods?

The war or national emergency periods are:

  • August 2, 1990, to date as yet undetermined.
  • December 16, 1950, through September 14, 1978.
  • September 8, 1939, through June 14, 1948.

If military service began during a war or national emergency period, any active duty service the employee was required to continue in beyond the end of the war or national emergency is creditable, except that voluntary service extending beyond September 14, 1978, is not creditable.

Railroad workers who voluntarily served in the armed forces between June 15, 1948, and December 15, 1950, when there was no declared national state of emergency, can be given Railroad Retirement credit for their military service if they:

  • performed railroad service in the year they entered or the year before they entered military serviceand;
  • returned to rail service in the year their military service ended, or in the following year, and;
  • had no intervening nonrailroad employment.

4. How can military service be used to increase benefits paid by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)?

Railroad Retirement annuities are based on length of service and earnings. If military service is creditable as railroad service, a person will receive additional compensation credits for each month of creditable military service and railroad service credit for each active military service month not already credited by actual railroad service.

Creditable military service may be used in addition to regular railroad service to meet certain service requirements, such as the basic 10-year or 5-year service requirements for a regular annuity, the 20-year requirement for an occupational disability annuity before age 60, the 25-year requirement for a supplemental annuity, or the 30-year requirement for early retirement benefits.

5. Can United States Merchant Marine service be creditable for Railroad Retirement purposes?

No. Service with the Merchant Marine or civilian employment with the Department of Defense is not creditable, even if performed in wartime.

6. Are Railroad Retirement annuities based in part on military service credits reduced if other benefits, such as military service pensions or payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs, are also payable on the basis of the same military service?

No. While Railroad Retirement employee annuities are subject to reductions for dual entitlement to Social Security benefits and, under certain conditions, federal, state or local government pensions, as well as certain other payments, Railroad Retirement employee annuities are always exempt from reduction for military service pensions or payments by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

7. Are the unemployment and sickness benefits payable by the RRB affected if an employee is also receiving a military service pension?

Yes. The unemployment and sickness benefits payable by the RRB are affected if a claimant is also receiving a military service pension. However, payments made by the Department of Veterans Affairs will not affect railroad unemployment or sickness benefits.

When a claimant is receiving a military service pension or benefits under any social insurance law for days in which he or she is entitled to benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, railroad unemployment or sickness benefits are payable only to the extent to which they exceed the other payments for those days. In many cases, the amount of a military service pension precludes the payment of unemployment or sickness benefits by the RRB. Examples of other such social insurance payments are firefighters’ and police pensions, or certain workers’ compensation payments. Claimants should report all such payments promptly to avoid having to refund benefits later.

8. Can proof of military service be filed in advance of retirement?

Yes. Railroad employees are encouraged to file their military service proofs well before retirement to expedite the annuity application process and avoid delays caused by inadequate proofs. Proofs can be mailed to an employee’s local RRB field office, or placed in the secure lockboxes/door slots outside of an RRB field office’s doors. (Lockboxes and door slots are checked daily.) Employee information will be recorded and stored electronically until an employee retires. All evidence brought or mailed to an RRB office will be handled carefully and returned promptly. 

If employees do not have an official record of their military service, their local RRB office will explain how to get acceptable evidence. 

9. How can an employee get more information about the crediting of his or her military service by the RRB?

More information is available by visiting the RRB’s website, RRB.gov, or by calling an RRB office toll-free at 1-877-772-5772. Persons can find the address of the RRB office servicing their area by calling the agency’s toll-free number or by clicking on the Field Office Locator tab at RRB.gov. RRB field offices currently offer limited in-person service by appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 1-877-772-5772. Individuals should bring a photo ID when visiting a field office, and, depending on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the county in which the field office is located, may be required to wear an appropriate face mask. In such circumstances, if visitors do not have a mask, one will be provided for them. 

Railroad Retirement annuitants subject to earnings restrictions can earn more in 2023 without having their benefits reduced due to increased limits indexed to average national wage increases.

Like Social Security benefits, some Railroad Retirement benefit payments are subject to deductions if an annuitant’s earnings exceed certain exempt amounts. These earnings restrictions apply to those who have not attained full Social Security retirement age. For employee and spouse annuitants, full retirement age varies depending on an individual’s year of birth, and is age 67 for those born after 1959. For survivor annuitants, full retirement age also varies, and is age 67 for those born after 1961.

For those under full retirement age throughout 2023, the exempt earnings amount rises to $21,240 from $19,560 in 2022. For beneficiaries attaining full retirement age in 2023, the exempt earnings amount, for the months before the month full retirement age is attained, increases to $56,520 in 2023 from $51,960 in 2022.

For those under full retirement age, the earnings deduction is $1 in benefits for every $2 of earnings over the exempt amount. For those attaining full retirement age in 2023, the deduction is $1 for every $3 of earnings over the exempt amount in the months before the month full retirement age is attained.

When applicable, these earnings deductions are assessed on the Tier I portion of Railroad Retirement employee and spouse annuities, and the Tier I and Tier II portions of survivor benefits.

All earnings received for services rendered, plus any net earnings from self-employment, are considered when assessing deductions for earnings. Interest, dividends, certain rental income or income from stocks, bonds or other investments are not considered earnings for this purpose.

Retired employees and spouses, regardless of age, who work for their last pre-retirement non-railroad employer are also subject to an additional earnings deduction, in their Tier II and supplemental benefits, of $1 for every $2 in earnings up to a maximum reduction of 50%. This earnings restriction does not change from year to year and does not allow for an exempt amount.

A spouse benefit is subject to reduction not only for the spouse’s earnings, but also for the earnings of the employee, regardless of whether the earnings are from service for the last pre-retirement non-railroad employer or other post-retirement employment.

Special work restrictions continue to be applicable to disability annuitants in 2023. The monthly disability earnings limit increases to $1,150 in 2023 from $1,050 in 2022.

Regardless of age and/or earnings, no Railroad Retirement annuity is payable for any month in which an annuitant (retired employee, spouse or survivor) works for a railroad employer or railroad union.