*** The Health Care Programs Manual (HCPM) has been replaced by the Minnesota Health Care Programs Eligibility Policy Manual (EPM) as of June 1, 2016. Please refer to the EPM for current health care program policy information. ***

Chapter 04 - Social Security Administration (SSA) Benefits

Effective:  October 1, 2012

04.05 - Railroad Retirement Benefits

Archived:  June 1, 2016 (Previous Versions)

Railroad Retirement Benefits

Current and former railroad employees may receive railroad retirement benefits. These people may apply for railroad retirement benefits and Medicare through the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). This section explains the role of the RRB and railroad retirement benefits.

More information about the RRB can be obtained either:

l  online at www.rrb.gov, or

l  by calling the RRB national information line: (800) 833-4455.

What is the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)?

What are Railroad Retirement Benefits?

Who Qualifies for Railroad Retirement Benefits?

Representative Payee.

Railroad Retirement Benefits Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

When to Refer for RRB Benefits.

RRB Benefits for Related Persons

Referrals to the RRB for Medicare

RRB Medicare Claim Number

How to Apply for Railroad Retirement Benefits or Medicare with the RRB.

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What is the Railroad Retirement Board?

The RRB is an independent agency of the Federal Government. It administers railroad retirement benefits and Medicare for railroad workers and their families. The primary function of the RRB is to determine and pay railroad retirement benefits.

What are Railroad Retirement Benefits?

Railroad workers who meet certain service requirements are eligible for:

l  retiree benefits,

l  disability benefits,

l  dependent benefits for spouses, ex-spouses and children meeting certain criteria, and

l  survivor benefits.

If a person has also earned enough Social Security credits to receive Social Security benefits as well as railroad retirement benefits, the beneficiary receives the larger benefit of the two.

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Who Qualifies for Railroad Retirement Benefits?

People who work for a railroad have railroad retirement withheld from their earnings instead of Social Security. Retiree benefit amounts are based on the number of years of service.

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Representative Payee

Representative payees are appointed by the RRB for beneficiaries who are not able to take care of their own finances.

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Railroad Retirement Benefits COLA

The cost of living adjustment for railroad retirement benefits is received January 1 of each year. Count the COLA amount at the time an MA client receives the increased amount.

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When to Refer for RRB Benefits

Railroad cash benefits are dependent upon age and the number of years employed.

l  Full retirement age: the age at which a person can begin receiving railroad retirement or social security benefits without any reductions in benefits. Full retirement age ranges from age 65 to age 67. The RRB follows the same graduated retirement age schedule as Social Security.

l  Early retirement benefits: can be applied for at age 62 but will be less than that which would be awarded at full retirement age.

Note:   Do not refer a person who has not reached full retirement age to apply for RRB retirement benefits. Applying for early retirement benefits is not a requirement for MA.

           Refer applicants or clients to RRB when they have reached their full retirement age.

l  Total disability: the RRB uses the same permanent disability criteria as the Social Security Administration (SSA). These individuals are eligible for enrollment in Medicare after receiving disability benefits for 24 months.

Total disability benefits are based on permanent disability for all employment and are payable at any age to employees with at least 10 years of railroad service and under certain conditions to employees with five years of service after '1995.

Refer clients with a disability if they meet the above criteria. Applicants must call the RRB for an appointment to begin the process.

Note:   Clients whose referral to RRB is based on a disability must also be referred to the State Medical Review Team (SMRT).

Persons who only receive Railroad Retirement benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can also have the status of 1619(a) or 1619(b). See HCPM 03.30.30, Medical Assistance (MA) for 1619(a) and 1619(b).

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RRB Benefits for Related Persons

Refer persons to the RRB if the relationship to the employee fits one or more of the following categories and the employee is currently receiving RRB benefits or was receiving or eligible to receive benefits but is now deceased:

l  Disability Benefits

n  Disabled child

n  Disabled spouse

n  Disabled divorced spouse

l  Retirement Benefits

n  Spouse

n  Divorced spouse (if married to employee for 10 years or caring for employee's child)

l  Survivor Benefits

n  Widow

n  Divorced spouse (if married to employee for 10 years)

n  Remarried spouse

n  Widow with employee's child until child is 16 years old

n  Divorced widow with employee's child until child is 16 years old

n  Dependent parent of employee

n  Children of employee (if under age 18 or until age 19 if still in school)

n  Grandchild

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Referrals to the RRB for Medicare

People turning age 65 who are receiving railroad retirement benefits must apply for Medicare through the RRB. See Referrals to Medicare for more information on when to refer to the RRB to apply for and enroll in Medicare.

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RRB Medicare Claim Number

The Medicare claim number for people receiving Medicare through the RRB is the person's Social Security number with a prefix instead of a suffix.

Exception:  Some people who have worked with the railroad only may have a six-digit Medicare claim number.


A person with the Social Security number 123-46-9000 files for Medicare through the RRB.


His Medicare claim number is A123-46-9000.

The prefix will be different if the claim is for a dependent.


The spouse of a person would have a suffix and Medicare claim number of MA123-46-9000.

The RRB uses the following prefixes on Medicare claim numbers:






Employee spouse


Divorced spouse


Aged widow of employee


Disabled widow of employee


Child of employee


Child of employee

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How to Apply for Railroad Retirement Benefits or Medicare with the RRB

Application is made by writing to or calling the RRB District office.

Minnesota residents eligible for benefits should contact the Minnesota RRB District office regarding cash benefit information and to apply for Medicare:

Minnesota Railroad Retirement Board.

Suite 195.

180 E 5th St.

St. Paul, MN 55101-1640.

Telephone: (877) 772-5772.

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