What Are Railroad Worker Disability Benefits?
Nearly every American injured in the workplace is covered by a state workers’ compensation law. Those workers almost immediately begin to receive short term benefits pursuant to insurance coverages obtained by their employer. Railroads employees are different and NOT covered by any state workers’ compensation law. Instead, the workers’ compensation law that relates to railroads and its employees is the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). Under FELA, no compensation is guaranteed to the employee. To trigger a FELA recovery, the employee must first prove negligence on the part of the employer in bringing about the on-duty injury. As such, typical workers’ compensation benefits in the form of wage replacement does not exist. However, the railroad employee is not absent any short term compensation while off work.
Short Term Disability Coverages
RAILROAD RETIREMENT BOARD SHORT TERM SICKNESS BENEFITS: These benefits can be applied for through the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). The RRB is the railroad employee’s federal social security system. So long as your physician is keeping you restricted from railroad employment, once you complete the application which can be found at RRB.gov you can begin receiving these short-term sickness benefits while off injured. The application should be filed within 30 days of your injury/knowledge you will miss work. These benefits will pay for a limited period of time approximately $1,200.00 per month.
PRIVATE SHORT TERM DISABILITY BENEFITS: Very often your union will provide a short-term disability policy that you likely pay for monthly in your union dues. Additionally, many employees purchase additional benefits through private insurance carriers. Check with your union representative on the process of applying for and collecting short term disability benefits through a union negotiated agreement. Our office can assist in getting you to the right individual to see if you have purchased and qualify for such coverage.
OFF-TRACK VEHICLE BENEFITS: If you are injured and due to miss time from work due to a van transportation incident (PTI, Hallcon, Renzenberger, etc.) then you likely qualify for a weekly payment under an “Off Track Vehicle” agreement between your union and your employer. Generally, this allows you to recover up to $1,000.00 per week in wages while you are disabled due to such a crash.
Importantly, it should not be overlooked that while these benefits cannot come remotely close to making an employee whole for the on-duty injuries he suffered, as any other benefits paid out to the employee while off work, are very likely to be paid back if the employee recovers on a FELA case.
Long Term Disability Coverages
Below we detail long term disability benefits through the RRB.
TOTAL AND PERMANENT DISABILITY: Any railroad employee that is deemed totally disabled from all regular work and has at least 120 months of credited railroad service with the RRB can apply for a total and permanent disability with the RRB. Employees with 60-119 months can also apply in certain situations. Lastly, employees with only 60 months of service, if performed after 1995, may apply in certain scenarios.
OCCUPATIONAL DISABILITY: Any railroad employee that is deemed disabled from his/her craft and has achieved 240 months of credited service with the RRB can apply for a disability annuity regardless of their age. If the employee is age 60 and has 120 months of service he/she may also apply.
Generally, a five month waiting period is required before any RRB disability annuity can begin.
It widely varies depending upon the number of claims under consideration by the RRB, but the length of time for consideration on a disability claim can be as quick as four months and potentially as long as a full year.
Private or Union Negotiated Long Term Disability Policies
Often your union will provide you the option to purchase a long-term disability policy. In the event you have paid premiums for such a policy, contact your union insurance representative or your local chairman to start the process of learning how you can and whether you qualify for payments. The same applies to any private long term disability policies you may have purchased on your own.