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December 20, 20200

When rail employees are unable to work due to a medical condition, the Proof of Disability (POD) form completed by your doctor is crucial to continue insurance coverage. The failure to submit the POD form is the number 1 reason for railroad employees insurance coverage being terminated. The POD form used for years had fax numbers to three different insurance providers and was confusing to some providers for that reason. The new POD form is now available with one FAX destination direct to Railroad Enrollment Services making it simpler and more streamlined for the providers. Although the goal for the new form is to make it more doctor friendly, the term used on the form for being unable to work remains “disabled”. This term seems to make doctors reluctant to sign the POD stating declaring an employee to be  disabled. This determination is for insurance continuation purposes only but If you or your doctor have questions, please call Railroad Enrollment Services at 800-753-2693.

It is important to know that If you have been placed into suspended or dismissed status in a disciplinary action and you have a medical condition that would prevent you from working, your insurance will not continue past the fourth month from last compensated service in that status unless a POD form is submitted before expiration of the four month period. If the employee is in dismissed status and has no medical condition that would change his/her status to disabled for insurance purposes but has a dependent with a total and permanent medical condition or third trimester of pregnancy, an Extension of Current Benefits Form, when signed by a doctor describing the condition, benefits will continue (for that condition only) for the period provided by the agreement.

If you are applying to the RRB for disability, ask your doctor to circle YES and you will be through with submitting any future POD forms. If he stipulates a time limit, you will have to get the form renewed each time the limit shown expires. Sometimes when you sustain an injury while on-duty, the Claims Agent will take care of insurance continuation if a lawyer has not yet been retained, but you cannot assume that the POD has been filed. Please make sure the POD is current and submitted so that no one is denied care or a prescription when needed most.

A copy of the new P.O.D. Form and the Extension of Current Benefits Form is attached and one of each is available at steel-moss.com that can be printed.

Sincerely,

Paul Wingo

423-802-7351

 


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December 6, 20200

Railroad Employees in general and Transportation Department employees in particular are prone to acquire a lot of different types of insurance through union agreements or purchases. They have short-term disability insurance, long-term disability and job insurance to pay when held out of service as discipline. Some insurance is provided in national union agreements while other coverages may be found in on-property agreements. Even retirees have a permanent $2000.00 life insurance policy which is often overlooked. Most policies are sold or included in union agreements and an individual policy is never issued. A payroll deduction card is signed to draft the premiums from their checks and a beneficiary card is provided but oftentimes is never returned. The only records are held by the provider.

Just about all of these policies have accidental death and dismemberment riders {AD&D} attached. Many years go by and even the employee can’t remember what that deduction from his check is for, the beneficiary named is no longer relevant or has died and in many cases the beneficiary card was never signed with a beneficiary named. There are additional accidental death and dismemberment riders that are of significant value. One national agreement provides $300,000.00 for loss of life in an off-track vehicle (along with  similar amputee benefits). The standard national agreement provided for active employees covered by the National Railroad Employees Health and Welfare Agreement is $20,000 death benefit increased to 30 if accidental death. Through our experience, we have found AD&D riders of significant value on disability policies, job insurance (“whammy”) policies and other policies.

Unfortunately, tragedy does strike on-duty railroad employees. Families dealing with a fatality could easily think a disability policy would not be of any value and do not have an actual policy to refer to seeing that the employee has these type insurance policies and move on to other things not realizing there are AD&D riders attached. Perhaps the time has come to do an inventory of old insurance policies, paying special attention to riders on the policies from railroad related insurance and get them properly filed with notes attached to ensure nothing is lost and make certain to update the beneficiaries in any areas that need attention.

Some examples of companies that may have secondary AD&D riders attached to the primary insurance are BR&CF, LE&CMPA, RAILROAD MARKETING, CORNERSTONE, etc. All agreements need to be checked.

 

Sincerely,

Paul Wingo

423-802-7351

 


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November 22, 20200
AVOIDING “THE DARK YEARS” FOR RAILROAD FAMILIES

While railroad employees’ benefits are among the best in the nation, we do have one very bad situation that over 20 years ago I dubbed the “dark years”. It creates the potential for a major financial problem but one that can be easily fixed with a little planning.

More than once I have spoken with a railroad widow and had to inform her that the dependents health insurance is in effect for only four months from the last month of the employee’s compensation and there would be no widow ‘s annuity unless there were dependent children under age 18 (or if she was between 50 and 59 years old and could be considered disabled she would then qualify for a disabled widow’s annuity but with a permanent 20% age reduction). In these cases, there are no survivor benefits and I can tell you this is the majority of the time. A railroad spouse needs to be acutely aware of this as the railroad career years roll by quickly. First thing you know, the kids are over 18, she is perhaps still less than 40 with 20 years to go before she is eligible for a widow’s annuity if her husband passes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However there is a remedy as this can be easily fixed with a little planning. The solution is dirt cheap term life insurance. A 20 year term-life policy for half a million can be bought for probably $22.00 per month and if purchased at the right time, would cover the family until the age of annuity eligibility is reached. In today’s railroad operational plan like precision railroading or targeting certain crew performances the pressure is on to get more done with less cre w size which can lead to more possibilities for what no one wants to happen. Fortunately, the General Chairmen have also recognized the need for life insurance for railroaders and have successfully negotiated accidental death coverage in the agreements such as the off-track vehicle coverage of $300,000, some job insurance riders like BRCF with $50,000 and other riders on short-term disability policies are valuable. However, it’s the individual term-life coverage that really does the job and protects the railroad family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t let your family be surprised to find out RRB “survivor benefits” are not really there when needed and don’t have them wondering what to do if something unfortunate happens. This job on the railroad is for our family. Make sure that they, no matter what , will be taken care of if something happens to you .Also know that In terms of a law firm that really cares, knows the railroad language and will guide them through every phase of collecting every benefit you have coming and getting the maximum settlement by proving liability- that Law Firm Is Steel & Moss of Atlanta, Georgia 800-776-0098.

 

Sincerely,

Paul Wingo

423-802-7351

 


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November 9, 20200

Since beginning our informational Blogs on this website I think we have covered some important areas and disclosed some benefits many of you were not aware of. Just last week we pulled the old “Extension of Current Benefits” out of the archive for one of our clients whose spouse’s insurance coverage terminates 12/31/20 but she is being treated for a permanent condition at Vanderbilt and once the special form “Extension of Current Benefits” is submitted, coverage will continue. Also, failure to submit the Proof of Disability Form continues to be the Number 1 reason for insurance termination or temporary suspension. Some of you have not faxed in the earnings report of vacation pay received in 2020 which would add an additional year of insurance coverage for your dependents for 2021 and continue you through 2022.

However, November has rolled around again. The month for Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Veterans Day is here. We have plenty of Veterans from all branches of military service in the ranks of railroad employees as well as client’s and “friends of the firm” at Steel & Moss. Some never mention being a Veteran and never attempt to claim some significant benefits, but you can count on the former Marines mentioning it. Why is it the Marines, compared to the other services seem to be the most proud? Forty years after discharge the majority still have caps and bumper stickers declaring they are former Marines.

I was a Marine and I will happily celebrate and salute Veterans of all the branches of U.S. Military Service on Veterans Day. At Steel & Moss we are proud to be connected with all of you and proud of your children who served or are serving. John Steel’s Dad was actually at Iwo Jima and John Moss was a U.S. Army JAG Lawyer. I think the ultimate salute and appreciation comes from the person who tells a Vet that he never served in the military but I sincerely thank you for your service.

As benefits director at Steel & Moss my mind seems to go to “are there any special benefits for railroad employees and our clients who are veterans”? Yes indeed! Hearing aids, disability compensation and retiree prescription drugs and health care when insurance runs out are common examples Those who have any rating of service connected disability compensation and have retired on occupational disability might possibly take the RRB disability award letter and apply for VA “Unemployability” which could move their disability rating to 100%.

On November 11th we will be thinking of you at Steel & Moss. We do indeed, “Thank You for your service”!

 

Sincerely,

Paul Wingo

423-802-7351


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October 26, 20201

Eligibility Thresholds will be our website blog this week and RRB has plenty:

  • Five years of railroad service and you are vested in railroad retirement Tier 1.
  • Ten years and you are vested in both Tier 1 and Tier 2 railroad retirement.
  • Twenty years and you are eligible for Occupational Disability at any age.
  • Thirty years and age 60 eligible for full retirement and makes spouse eligible also.
  • Ten years and age 60 makes you eligible for Occupational  Disability.
  • Married for one year the spouse is eligible for a spouse annuity. Ten months if employee dies).
  • Married ten years, divorced spouse is eligible for Tier 1 annuity.
  • Widow eligible at age 60 or any age if caring for the employee’s minor or disabled child.
  • Disabled widow between ages 50 and 59.
  • Unmarried child under age 19 and attending secondary school is eligible for survivor benefits.
  • Age 18 or older if totally disabled before age 22 is eligible for survivor benefits.
  • Total disability makes dependent child eligible (Also disability freeze)

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Credible months can come from any railroad service, including unions. Credit can come from any month the employee worked, even if the employee worked only one day. There are many more factors determining eligibility but, in a nutshell, these are the most common

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Sincerely,

Paul Wingo

423-802-7351


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October 11, 20200

On this week’s blog let’s discuss regular retirement combining retiree insurance, RRB details, earned/unused vacation and P.L. Days all into one discussion. First, the employee who will retire with less than 30 years is eligible to retire at age 62 but with an age reduction usually around 25%. Full retirement is age 66 and months determined by your birth date. There is no provision for bridge insurance to carry you to age 65 Railroad Medicare. To avoid these two costly items you would have to have conditions to become eligible for occupational disability where there is no age reduction. With a doctor signed proof of disability form your insurance would remain in effect for the remainder of the qualifying year plus 2 years, enough to get you to age 65 RR Medicare. All vacation pay earned from previous year and banked PL days (PLD) will be paid after you retire. Use up the current year’s PL Days or lose them.

The Railroad Employees National Agreement for the 60/30 early retirement package is one of the best in the nation. You can retire the month after the month you reach age 60 with 30 years of service and that qualifies your spouse as well. Spouse annuity is basically 50% of your Tier 1 and 45% of your Tier 2. However, if the spouse had earnings that calculated her social security greater than 50% of your Tier 1, she can opt to take her social security and 45% of your Tier 2. If the retiree happens to have a dependent child under 18 in care then your spouse is eligible for a spouse annuity at any age.

Married one year is the spouse eligibility requirement. However, married for ten years is the divorced spouse eligibility. If the eligible spouse wants to continue working, with you retired, she can draw a portion of spouse annuity and still work. If the employee previously retired on disability with 30 years the 60/30 benefits still apply. Retiree Insurance converts from GA-23000 to GA-46000 with prescription coverage that covers all the way to age 65 and Medicare. Unlike the GA-23000 insurance you had when active that terminates 4 months from month of death, GA-46000 continues for your dependents until you would have reached age 65. Oftentimes there is a period of time where the employee has reached 65 and the spouse has not, leaving the spouse with an insurance problem until eligible for Medicare. Call 800-842-5252 and inquire about plans A, B, and C or you can COBRA the existing coverage for 36 months. Retiree $2000 life insurance at MetLife, call: 800-310-7770

It’s a good idea to contact RRB AT 877-772-5772 a year or more in advance and submit all items needed and be ready to retire on the day of your choosing. Enroll in the GA-46000 60 days in advance of retirement by calling United Health Care at 800-842-5252. The supplement to GA-46000 is GA-23111, Plan E that adds $500,000 to your ($171,100.00) lifetime major medical. This will be your opportunity to enroll in dental and vision coverage under COBRA for 18 months. Your GA 23000 coverage will remain in effect for one month after you retire. They will not cash your enrollment check until the due date to begin coverage.

When the employee reaches age 65 and eligible for Medicare, RRB will handle your enrollment. The supplement for Medicare is GA-23111, Plan F. Call 800-809-0453 to purchase Plan F.

“Please accept this as my letter of resignation effective _____ for the purpose of retirement” is all that is necessary to satisfy your relinquishment of seniority rights. Sign no form letter.

Sincerely,

Paul Wingo

423-802-7351


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September 25, 20200

  • Basic spouse annuity is 50% of employee’s Tier 1 and 45% of the Tier 2. Basic amount of a Divorced Spouse annuity is 50% of the Tier 1 and zero Tier 2 unless a court order treats the Tier 2 as community property and awards the spouse a certain percentage determined by the court. If spouse’s social security is greater than 50% of employee’s Tier 1, spouse can draw her/his social security and employee’s Tier 2.
  • If the employee retires 60/30 and the spouse is age 60 and also eligible to retire but wants to work, spouse can continue to work and be eligible for a portion of the employee’s annuity.
  • If you retire 60/30, and your spouse is disabled (on social security) and eligible for Medicare but has been on your GA-23000 insurance while in active railroad service, once you are retired the spouse is ineligible for GA-46000 and must enroll in Medicare Part B rather than GA-46000.
  • Spouse is eligible for retirement annuity at any age with the retired employee if caring for employee’s dependent child.
  • Your spouse should know that widows between the ages of 50 and 59 could be eligible for a monthly annuity if disabled and unable to work. Without caring for dependent children it’s about the only option.

Paul Wingo

423-802-7351


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September 14, 20200

When Congress made the provision for Occupational Disability for railroad employees it was noted that social security disability, although requiring the annuitant to be disabled from all regular and substantial work, insurance was provided by Medicare, taxes were less and dependent children were eligible, making the social security disability benefits significantly greater than the railroad occupational disability. So, Congress inserted a provision into railroad occupational disability whereas if the railroad annuitant could meet the social security criteria of being disabled from all regular and substantial work, the social security benefits would be applied to occupational disability and be known as a “disability freeze”. This included payments to dependent children which is why it takes several months after you are awarded disability to get them included, waiting for social security to handle red-tape details.

If you think you might be eligible for Disability Freeze, call Paul Wingo 423-802-7351 or Click Here

Next, is how to qualify for the freeze and decide if you should want to qualify. You qualify for the disability freeze by providing all the physical and mental impairment information in your application that you might not normally do when applying for occupational disability with strong emphasis on your daily living inabilities. If you have 360 credible months and already are age 60 or will reach age 60 before your GA-23000 insurance terminates and no dependent children you may not want a disability freeze because you are going to be eligible for GA-46000 the 60/30 early retirement insurance and that will carry you (with prescription coverage) to age 65 Railroad Medicare. However, once RR Medicare is awarded, it becomes primary. Anytime you are awarded Railroad Medicare you will want to call 800-842-5252 and inquire about the Medicare Supplement GA-23111, Plan F. Prescription coverage is GA-23111 Part D. Once you are on Railroad Medicare and your dependent has time remaining on your carrier provided insurance the dependent is eligible until the expiration date set forth in the agreement. Don’t be persuaded by a cheaper Medicare Plan F supplement offering in your mailbox. Unlike the active employee whose insurance terminates in four months from dismissal, death or furlough, GA-46000 remains in effect if the employee dies until he/she would have reached age 65.

Steel & Moss oftentimes have injury clients with under 240 credible months (and not age 60) who are not eligible for occupational disability. We are ever mindful of the financial drain on their settlement funds in providing insurance for the family, no monthly benefits for dependent children and no monthly cash flow to supplement their settlement funds. It is possible to be awarded Total disability without the disability freeze package. This is the mission of the Steel & Moss disability section headed by Paul Wingo at no fee to our clients. If we are successful in obtaining a disability freeze attached to either T&P or Occupational Disability, the lifetime value of this package is probably one million dollars that would have put a considerable drain on his/her settlement. We have not had a client unable to return to work that did not get this benefit in several years. Unfortunately, it is not difficult to find other railroad employees injured on the job, obtain a settlement and has none of the above benefits. This is one reason why John Steel and John Moss has funded this section within their F.E.L.A. Law Firm since 2006. We encourage you to attend the annual RRB Labor Member’s Informational Conference.

Paul Wingo

Questions for Paul?


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August 28, 20200

Dismissals have caused the current connection to be of much more concern now than in the past. A current connection is required for survivor benefits, supplemental payment, and occupational disability. It is not required for regular retirement based on age and service years or total disability. An employee or former employee loses current connection due to employment outside the railroad industry for over 12 months in a 30 month period, making a good rule of thumb’ don’t go over 18 months. Self-employment will not cause loss of the current connection. I have seen exceptions made in cases of leaving the railroad for the ministry. Going on occupational disability In the timely manner described above will not affect it.

As information, a few other benefits permanently lost by certain other mistakes are:

  • Having a dependent child with issues making that child a dependent adult and not reporting the child to RRB as your permanent dependent before reaching age 22 will cause loss of benefits later when you retire and expect benefits.
  • Being in dismissed status and have a disability and fail to file a proof of disability form before the expiration of four months from month of last compensation will terminate health insurance.
  • I have seen a dismissed/disabled employee qualified for occupational disability with an estimated annuity of over $3500 a month fail to submit the form to change status to disabled and protect insurance eligibility, take a job paying near minimum wage, lose his current connection working that job and after receiving an unfavorable PLB ruling, unable to return to service and also unable to file for occupational disability.

Many years of experience as a union officer seeing the traumatic effect on a railroad employee being dismissed has caused me to do a lot of study on what is the best route forward for most. In the crafts of engineer and conductor  with over 20 years, four main factors are most always present; they have been railroading so long they have no transferable skills to the private sector, if they do gain employment it is probably at unacceptable pay level, self-esteem is lost and depression is the result; most have had some occupational disability from their railroad craft they concealed; they lose their current connection. I am persuaded that occupational disability if objectively eligible is the prudent path to take.

There are many subjects I will cover in future blogs. I hope you will continue reading and if injured call Steel & Moss Law Firm, the best FELA Firm with full focus on your future with two of the finest F.E.L.A Trial Lawyers backed up by the very best disability specialist doing all possible to get you a disability annuity, early Medicare and dependent children benefits, a research & analysis expert on anything on locomotives and modern railroad technology who leaves no stone unturned assisting Steel & Moss plus an at large field man providing invaluable assistance.

Paul Wingo


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