This is the second installment of a six-part blog series focused on the Railroad Retirement Act (RRA). You can read the full series here.


Tier I annuity benefits are determined according to earnings and career service.  To qualify for Tier I benefits, an employee must have worked a minimum of ten (10) years in the railroad industry.  Tier I benefits become payable when the employee reaches the retirement age as established by the Social Security Act (SSA), or reaches the age of sixty (60) and has thirty (30) years of service.  Tier I annuity benefits are non-divisible and thus not subject to equitable distribution upon divorce.


Tier I annuity benefits represent the same benefit amount that the SSA would provide the employee upon retirement.  The Tier I component of an employee’s RRA annuity is calculated by applying the benefit formula of the SSA to the employee’s earnings record.  An employee’s earning record includes both rail industry earnings and any earnings from employment covered by the SSA.


If you or your spouse have been railroad employees and thus may be eligible for a RRA annuity, it is strongly recommended that you speak to a legal professional to ensure that these unique benefits are properly accounted for and distributed incident to a divorce.