President Barack Obama Sept. 24 nominated Steven Anthony as the management member of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, replacing Jerome F. Kever, whose term is expiring.
Anthony’s appointment will require Senate confirmation.
Anthony most recently served as senior general counsel and secretary for the Norfolk Southern Corporation from 2007 to 2012. Previously, he was a Washington lobbyist for NS from 1997 to 2007 and NS general counsel from 1981 to 1997.
From 1978 to 1981, Anthony was secretary and general counsel of the Illinois Terminal Railroad.
Anthony received a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of Missouri and a juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa.
Kever was appointed to serve as management member of the RRB by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 upon the recommendation of the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. He was reappointed to a second term of office by President Bill Clinton in 1995, and then to a third term in May 2000, which ended in August 2003. He was reappointed by President George W. Bush.
The RRB is an independent agency in the executive branch of the federal government that administers comprehensive retirement-survivor and unemployment-sickness benefit programs for the nation’s railroad workers and their families. As part of the retirement program, the RRB also has administrative responsibilities under the Social Security Act for certain benefit payments and railroad workers’ Medicare coverage.
About 600 Long Island Rail Road retirees will lose their disability benefits after a federal agency voted last week to halt the payments, amid a sweeping investigation into what prosecutors have called a major disability fraud scheme, according to agency documents and officials.
The agency, the United States Railroad Retirement Board, which over more than a decade granted disability benefits to hundreds of railroad retirees based on fraudulent medical evidence with little scrutiny, took the action on Thursday during a five-minute meeting at its headquarters in Chicago. The vote approved procedures under which the board will cut off the benefits, which, officials said, are costing the agency $2 million a month.
Railroad employees who are planning to retire should be aware of what steps to take and what documents are required when applying for an annuity from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). Being prepared can prevent needless delays and ensure that payments from the RRB begin as soon as possible after retirement.
The following questions and answers describe the application process and other related items that retiring employees, as well as their spouses or survivors, should be aware of.
1. How are railroad retirement annuity applications filed?
Applications are filed through the RRB’s field offices. Applicants may file in person or by telephone and mail. Those filing in person may do so at any RRB office or at one of the office’s customer outreach program service locations. Applicants filing by telephone receive the same information and instructions that are provided to those filing in person; forms requiring signatures and other documents are then handled by mail.
The addresses of all the RRB’s field offices are available on the agency’s website at www.rrb.gov, or by calling the RRB’s toll-free number at (877) 772-5772. This number, which provides access to the agency’s field office representatives, also provides automated menus 24 hours a day, seven days a week. RRB field offices are open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays.
2. Can an application be filed prior to a person’s actual retirement date?
The RRB accepts annuity applications up to three months in advance of an annuity beginning date, which allows the RRB to complete the processing of most new claims by a person’s retirement date. An employee can be in compensated service while filing a disability application provided that the compensated service is not active service and terminates within 90 days from the date of filing. When an employee files a disability application while still in compensated service, it will be necessary to provide a specific ending date of the compensation. Compensated service includes not only compensation with respect to active service performed by an employee for an employer, but also includes pay for time lost, wage continuation payments, certain employee protection payments and any other payment for which the employee will receive additional creditable service.
To expedite the filing process, applicants should contact their local RRB field office to schedule time for a pre-retirement consultation and also to confirm their eligibility and be advised as to the required documents. The consultation can be conducted in person, or by telephone, with an RRB representative who will provide an annuity estimate, explain a retiree’s benefit rights and responsibilities, and answer related questions.
Railroad employees can also get estimates of their future annuities over the Internet by visiting the RRB’s website. To do so, employees must first establish an RRB online account at www.rrb.gov. For security purposes, first-time users must apply for a Password Request Code (PRC), which they will receive by regular mail in about 10 business days. To do this, they should click on “Request Password Request Code (PRC) be mailed to your home address” in the “Benefit Online Services Login” section on the home page. Once they establish their online accounts, they will be able to get an estimate of their annuities, as well as conduct other business with the RRB, over the Internet. Railroad workers are encouraged to establish online accounts while still employed so the accounts are ready when needed. Employees who have already established online accounts do not need to do so again.
3. What are some of the documents required with an application?
All applicants have to furnish proof of their age.
All applicants should be prepared to furnish the notice of any social security benefit award or other social security claim determination.
An employee may be required to submit information regarding any other federal, state or local government pension for which he or she also qualifies, as well as certain other payments not covered by railroad retirement or social security, such as from a non-profit organization or from a foreign government or a foreign employer.
An employee or survivor filing for a disability annuity is required to submit supporting medical information from his or her treating physician, as well as any reports or records from recent hospitalizations. He or she may also be asked to go for one or more specialized medical examinations given by a doctor named by the RRB. If an employee disability applicant is receiving workers’ compensation or public disability benefits, notice of the amount and beginning date of such payments must be submitted.
An employee will have to furnish proof of any military service claimed.
A spouse, divorced spouse or widow(er) applying for a railroad retirement annuity must furnish proof of marriage to the employee. A divorced spouse must furnish proof of a final divorce from the employee, as well as proof that any subsequent marriages have terminated.
A spouse, divorced spouse or survivor also qualified to receive a pension from a federal, state or local government must submit information regarding that pension.
All applicants have to provide banking information necessary for their enrollment in direct deposit.
A booklet, “Furnishing Evidence to Support Your Claim” (Form RB-3), gives detailed information as to the types of proofs that are required when filing for an annuity, as well as sources from which these documents can be obtained. The booklet is available free of charge at any RRB office or at www.rrb.gov.
4. Can proofs be filed in advance of retirement?
Railroad employees are encouraged to file proofs of their correct birth date and their military service well in advance of retirement. The information will be recorded and stored electronically until they actually retire. This will expedite the annuity application process and avoid any delays resulting from inadequate proofs.
If employees do not have an official record of their birth or military service, their local RRB office will explain how to get acceptable evidence. All evidence brought or mailed to an RRB office will be handled carefully and returned promptly.
5. What is the retroactivity of a railroad retirement application?
The retroactivity of a railroad retirement annuity application is limited to one year for disability annuities and six months for full age annuities. There is generally no retroactivity for reduced age annuities.
Retroactivity of a survivor annuity application is one year for disabled widow(er)s and six months for full retirement age widow(er)s, mothers (fathers), children and parents. Retroactivity for widow(er)s ages 60-61 is six months if it does not increase the age reduction (this does not apply to surviving divorced spouses or remarried widow(er)s). Otherwise, there is generally no retroactivity for reduced age widow(er)s’ annuities.
6. Are retiring railroad employees required to relinquish their rights to their railroad jobs?
An employee annuity based on age cannot be paid until the employee stops railroad employment and gives up any rights to return to work for a railroad employer. While an annuity based on disability is not paid until an employee has stopped working for a railroad, employment rights need not be relinquished until the employee attains full retirement age. However, in order for a supplemental annuity to be paid by the RRB, or for an eligible spouse to begin receiving annuity payments, a disabled annuitant under full retirement age must relinquish employment rights. And, regardless of age and/or earnings, no railroad retirement annuity is payable for any month in which a retired or disabled employee annuitant, a spouse annuitant or a survivor annuitant works for an employer covered under the Railroad Retirement Act, including labor organizations. Such work includes service for more than $24.99 in a calendar month to a local lodge or division of a railway labor organization. Also, work by a local lodge or division secretary collecting insurance premiums, regardless of the amount of salary, is railroad work which must be stopped.
Railroad retirement annuitants may work in nonrailroad employment, but benefits may be reduced if a beneficiary under full retirement age works after retirement and earnings exceed annual exempt amounts. Additional earnings deductions are assessed if a retired or disabled employee annuitant, or a spouse annuitant, works for his or her last pre-retirement nonrailroad employer, regardless of age or the level of earnings.
Special restrictions also apply to any earnings by disabled employees.
7. How soon after filing can an applicant expect payment?
Under the RRB’s Customer Service Plan, if an applicant filed for a railroad retirement employee or spouse annuity in advance of the beginning date of the annuity, the RRB is expected to make a decision within 35 days of the beginning date of the annuity. If an applicant did not file in advance, the RRB is expected to make a decision within 60 days of the date the application was filed.
If an applicant filed for a railroad retirement survivor annuity and was not already receiving benefits as a spouse, the RRB will make a decision to pay, deny, or transfer the application to the Social Security Administration within 60 days of the beginning date of the annuity or the date the application was filed (whichever is later). If an applicant is already receiving a spouse annuity, the RRB will make a decision to pay, deny, or transfer the application for a survivor annuity to the Social Security Administration within 30 days of the first notice of the employee’s death. If an applicant filed for a lump-sum death benefit, the RRB will make a decision to pay or deny the application within 60 days of the date the application was filed.
After the RRB has made its decision, applicants should receive a notice of award or denial within two weeks. If entitled to benefits, it is generally expected that the payment will be deposited in an individual’s bank account within one week of the RRB’s decision.
For disability annuities, processing applications is more complex than for other benefits because of the need to develop medical evidence. Under the Customer Service Plan, if an applicant filed for a railroad retirement disability annuity, the RRB is expected to make a decision within 100 days of the date the application was filed.
If it is determined that an applicant is entitled to disability benefits, the individual’s first payment will be received within 25 days of the date of the RRB’s decision, or the earliest payment date, whichever is later.
Of course, claims for some benefits may take longer to handle than others if they are more complex, or if information from other people or organizations is needed. If this happens, the RRB will provide an explanation and an estimate of the additional time required to make a decision.
8. How are railroad retirement payments made?
The Department of the Treasury has eliminated the vast majority of paper checks for Federal benefit payments. New recipients of federal benefits now receive their payments by electronic means. The most common form of electronic payment for railroad retirement, social security and veterans benefits is through direct deposit, in which the amount is automatically transferred to an individual’s bank account. Those without bank accounts can enroll in Treasury’s Direct Express® program, which electronically transfers Federal payments to an individual’s Direct Express®-issued debit card. The card can then be used like an ordinary debit card. While agencies can still grant waivers from electronic payment, they can do so only in very limited cases.
9. How can individuals find more information about filing for railroad retirement annuities?
More information is available by visiting the RRB’s website, www.rrb.gov, or by calling an RRB office toll-free at (877) 772-5772. Persons can find the address of the RRB office servicing their area by calling the agency’s toll-free number or at www.rrb.gov.
BANGOR, Maine – Gerald E. Bailey, 68, of Pittston, Maine pled guilty on Tuesday, April 23 to charges of collecting pension that he was not entitled to.
Bailey retired from Springfield Terminal Railway in 2004 and began receiving his pension payments from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). According to an affidavit filed by assistant U.S. attorney Gail Fisk Malone, Bailey returned to work from 2007 to 2010 with the Maine Eastern Railroad.
Bailey was able to avoid detection during that time by using another person’s social security number and name on his time cards. He received pension totaling $83,398 during that time which he was not entitled to.
Once you retire, it is illegal to continue to work and receive funds from the RRB at the same time. Employers are required to report earnings of each employee yearly to the RRB. It is unclear how the RRB detected the fraud.
At sentencing, Bailey could face up to 10 years in prison with three years of parole and fines up to $250,000. Bailey was not a member of the UTU.
The so-called fiscal cliff bill approved by the House and Senate Jan. 1 allows extended railroad unemployment benefits to continue through Dec. 31, 2013, with Congress appropriating $250,000 to the Railroad Retirement Board to administer those extended benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act.
The extension affects those railroaders out of work at least six months.
For rail workers furloughed as a result of Hurricane Sandy, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) advises those victims may qualify for railroad unemployment benefits.
Following a request by UTU International President Mike Futhey to RRB Labor Member Walt Barrows, the RRB has agreed to waive a time-consuming requirement that claims be verified by the carrier, thus expediting the claims procedure for members adversely impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
Those furloughed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy may thus file claims by telephone or electronically via the Railroad Retirement Board’s website.
To file claims for benefits, affected railroaders should call the RRB’s toll-free telephone number at 877-772-5772, or visit its website at www.rrb.gov/
To qualify for normal railroad unemployment benefits in the benefit year that began July 1, an employee must have had railroad earnings of at least $3,325 in calendar year 2011, counting no more than $1,330 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail industry in 2011 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad service in that year.
Railroad unemployment benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment over four in 14-day registration periods. The maximum daily benefit rate is currently $66, so maximum benefits for biweekly claims will total $660.
In addition, during the first 14-day claim period in a benefit year, benefits are payable for each day of unemployment in excess of seven, rather than four, which basically creates a one-week waiting period.
To file an application for benefits online via the website, a furloughed worker must have an Internet Services Account with the RRB. For security purposes, first-time users must obtain a unique password, which they can do by clicking on the link for requesting a Password Request Code (PRC) in the Benefit Online Services login section at www.rrb.gov
Individuals who have already established an Internet Services Account and password can go online to file applications and claims for biweekly unemployment benefits.
The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) holds informational conferences, and all UTU representatives are urged to attend to learn more about pensions, disability annuities and other services offered by the RRB.
All informational conference registrations begin at 8:00 a.m., with the programs beginning promptly at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 12:15 p.m.
A former president of a UTU local, a former Railroad Retirement Board employee, two physicians and six workers retired from Long Island Rail Road have been charged by the federal government with criminal fraud involving allegedly false Long Island Rail Road employee occupational disability claims filed with and paid by the Railroad Retirement Board.
Among those charged is Joseph Rutigliano, a former president of UTU Local 645, who retired in 1999. Rutigliano’s attorney told Long Island Newsday, “I consider the complaint a masterpiece of creative writing.”
The U.S. attorney in charge of the case said his office would pursue civil cases to recover occupational disability payments from hundreds of Long Island Rail Road retirees who claimed an occupational disability based on allegedly false claims, and that additional criminal charges are likely.
According to the criminal complaint, hundreds of Long Island Rail Road retirees falsely filed occupational disability claims that were approved by the Railroad Retirement Board.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Employees, in many cases, after claiming to be too disabled to stand, sit, walk or climb stairs, retired to lives of regular golf, tennis, biking and aerobics.”
The physicians charged in the criminal complaint – and a third physician who is now deceased – are alleged to have prepared false medical assessments and illness narratives. The criminal complaint alleges that during a 12-year period ending in 2008, the physicians recommended almost 1,100 Long Island Railroad employees for occupational disability, and were paid as much as $1,200 for each assessment and narrative they prepared, plus they collected fees for what was termed “unnecessary medical treatments.”
The charges are the result of a federal probe following a series of investigative articles published in 2008 by The New York Times.
WASHINGTON – A former secretary-treasurer of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen – Walt Barrows – is the new labor member of the Railroad Retirement Board following his Senate confirmation Sept. 27. He succeeds Butch Speakman, who chose to retire.
Barrows began his railroad career as a signalman with Norfolk & Western Railway (now part of Norfolk Southern) in 1974. Since 2004 – while holding his signalmen post — he has been the labor trustee of the National Railroad Retirement Investment Trust, a position earlier held by former UTU General Secretary and Treasurer Dan Johnson.
Separately, Democrat Harry Hoglander and Republican Thomas Beck are awaiting Senate action on their White House nominations to the National Mediation Board (NMB).
Hoglander, educated as an attorney, was nominated to a fourth three-year term to expire in June 2014. Before joining the NMB, he was a legislative aide to Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), where he focused on aviation and rail issues. Previously, Hoglander retired as an Air Force fighter pilot, a Trans World Airlines pilot and executive vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association.
Beck, who would succeed Republican Elizabeth Dougherty (for a three-year term expiring in 2013), currently is a Senate-confirmed member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), which administers labor-management relations for non-Postal Service federal employees. Previously, he was an attorney practicing labor and employment law. Beck also teaches, on a part-time basis, courses in legislation and public policy at George Mason University in Virginia.
The third member of the NMB is Democrat Linda Puchala, who was confirmed to her first three-year term in May 2009.
The Railroad Retirement Board will begin June 1 to withhold from benefits checks premiums for Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans) and Medicare Part D (prescription drug plans).
Withholding is voluntary, and beneficiaries should contact their plans to request withholding by the Railroad Retirement Board of these premiums from their monthly benefits payments.
Part C and Part D premiums vary according to the plan and provider.
Note that a new federal law requires some Part D beneficiaries also to pay an additional monthly adjustment amount, depending on a beneficiary’s or married couple’s modified adjusted gross income.
While the RRB will be able to deduct the regular Part D premiums for individuals who elect to have them withheld from their benefits payments, Part D enrollees subject to the monthly adjustment amount will continue to receive a bill for that portion as the Railroad Retirement Board says it is unable to deduct those amounts from benefits at this time.
The Part D income-related monthly adjustment amounts are $12, $31.10, $50.10 or $69.10, depending on the extent to which an individual beneficiary’s modified adjusted gross income exceeds $85,000, or a married couple’s income exceeds $170,000. The Social Security Administration determines if a monthly adjustment amount is due, based upon the most recent tax return information available from the IRS.
The Railroad Retirement Board also reminds Medicare beneficiaries that the annual enrollment period for Part C and Part D coverage will be between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7 this year, rather than Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, as it was in previous years. Changes and enrollments made during this period will still be effective Jan. 1, 2012.