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Women’s Railroad Retirement Reforms

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The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires the payment of benefits to the former wives of railroad employees when the employees reach retirement age, and after their deaths.

Payment of “Tier I” benefits when employees’ reach retirement age

Under prior law  “Tier I” Railroad Retirement benefits (which are similar to Social Security benefits) could not be paid to divorced wives of railroad employees until the employee actually retired. A railroad employee who continued to work out of necessity or spite could prevent his ex-wife from receiving her share of his benefits.

The Pension Protection Act provides that a divorced wife will be eligible to start receiving the share of “Tier I” benefits at the ex-husband’s earliest retirement age.

This provision took effect on August 17, 2007.

Payment of court-awarded survivor benefits for surviving former spouses

Before the Pension Protection Act, the Railroad Retirement System was the only federally regulated retirement program that would not pay court-awarded survivors benefits to divorced widows.

Under the PPA, divorced widows are able to continue receiving their shares of “Tier II” benefits after the deaths of their ex-husbands if a state domestic relations court has directed the Railroad Retirement Board to pay these benefits.

This provision took effect on August 17, 2007.

Read sections 1002 and 1003 of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-280).

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