|ONLINE VERSION||AUGUST 1999|
|Railroad Retirement Board News|
|NOTE: PLEASE USE ATTACHED FORM BA-6 (6-99) AS GRAPHIC
AND MAKE SURE IT'S BIG ENOUGH TO READ.
RRB Issues Statements of Service
Each year, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board prepares a "Certificate of Service Months and Compensation" (Form BA-6) for every railroad employee who received creditable railroad compensation in the previous calendar year. The forms were mailed to employees by the Board during the latter half of June. While the Board has made every effort to compile and keep current a listing of the addresses of all active railroad employees, employees for whom compensation was reported in 1998, but who had not received a Form BA-6 by mid-July, or need a replacement, should contact the nearest Board field office.
Form BA-6 provides employees with a record of their Railroad Retirement service and compensation. While the form has no cash value, the information shown is used to determine whether an employee qualifies for benefits and the amount of those benefits.
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 figures shown on the form. In checking the 1998 compensation total, employees should be aware that only annual earnings up to $68,400 were creditable for Railroad Retirement purposes in that year, and that $68,400 is the maximum amount shown on the form. To assist employees in reviewing their service credits, the form also shows service credited on a month-by-month basis for 1997, 1996, and 1995, when the creditable compensation maximums were $65,400, $62,700 and $61,200, respectively. In addition, the form identifies the rail employers reporting the employee's 1998 service and compensation.
Besides the months of service reported by rail employers, Form BA-6 shows the number of any additional service months deemed by the Board. Deemed service months may be credited under certain conditions for an employee who did not work in all 12 months of the year, but had creditable tier II earnings exceeding monthly prorations of the creditable tier II earnings maximum for the year. However, the total of 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.
In addition to regular compensation which generally yields service month credits, the form shows miscellaneous compensation, such as taxable sickness payments.
The Form BA-6 also shows 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 Board does not collect or maintain payroll tax information, the Board computes this amount from its compensation records in order to advise retired employees of their payroll tax contributions for federal income tax purposes.
For former employees who received separation or severance payments, the form, in the section designated "Taxable Amount," shows the amounts of any 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 Board upon retirement to employees with 120 months of service, 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."
An employee who receives Form BA-6 with an incorrect name, address, date of birth or Social Security number can have the information corrected by contacting the nearest Board field office. If there is a name difference, an employee should be aware that the form may not show his or her full surname if the surname exceeds 10 letters, "Junior" or "Senior" was used with the surname, or the employee first worked for a railroad in 1998. Employees may also contact a Board field office to request a detailed breakdown, by year, of all railroad service and compensation credited to them. For most employees, the address and phone number of the board office serving their area is provided on the form. Employees can also locate the nearest field office by visiting the Board's Web site at www.rrb.gov, looking in the telephone directory under "United States Government," or checking with a union representative, rail employer, local post office or federal information center. In addition, a toll-free automated Help Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-808-0772. Employees can use the Help Line to request a detailed breakdown of their creditable railroad service and compensation, as well as to find the address and telephone number of the Board office serving their area.
Any other discrepancies in Form BA-6 should be reported promptly in writing to: Protest Unit-ESTC, U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, 844 North Rush Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611-2092. The employee must include his or her Social Security number in the letter. The form BA-6 also explains what other documentation and information should be provided. The law limits to four years the period during which corrections can be made.
Benefit Rate Increase for Railroad Unemployment and Sickness Benefits
The maximum daily benefit rate payable for claims under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act increases to $46 from $44, in the new benefit year which begins July 1, 1999. Benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment or sickness over four in 14-day registration periods, so maximum benefits for biweekly claims will total $460.
During the first 14-day claim period in a benefit year, benefits are payable for each day of unemployment or sickness in excess of seven, rather than four, which, in effect, provides a one-week waiting period. Initial sickness claims must also begin with four consecutive days of sickness. However, only one waiting period is required during any period of continuing employment or sickness, even if that period continues into a subsequent benefit year. Therefore, claimants already on the rolls will normally not be required to serve another waiting period because of the onset of the new benefit year.
To qualify for normal railroad unemployment or sickness benefits, an employee must have had railroad earnings of at least $2,312.50 in calendar year 1998, not counting more than $925 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail industry in 1998 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad service in 1998.
Under certain conditions, employees with 10 or more years of service, who do not qualify in the new benefit year on the basis of their 1998 earnings, may still be able to receive benefits after June 30, 1999. Ten-year employees who received normal benefits in the benefit year ending June 30, 1999, might still be eligible for extended benefits, and ten-year employees may be eligible for accelerated benefits if they have rail earnings of at least $2,425 in 1999, not counting earnings of more than $970 a month.
Application forms for unemployment and sickness benefits can be obtained from railroad employers, railroad labor organizations, any Railroad Retirement Board office, or the Board's Web site at www.rrb.gov. Claimants with questions about unemployment or sickness benefits should contact the nearest Board office. Most Board offices are open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Claimants can find the address and phone number of the Board office serving their area, and also get information about their claims and benefit payments, by calling the toll-free RRB Help-Line at 1-800-808-0722. Callers to the RRB Help-Line who want information about their unemployment or sickness claims and benefit payments need a Personal Identification Number (PIN), which is printed on the back of each claim form.