If I claim spousal benefits through my husband’s Railroad Benefits, will it make me claim my Social Security benefit too?

Published: March 22, 2023

Full question: I am hoping you will be able to assist in answering a question related to spousal benefits that potentially may involve coordination between the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). I plan to take my full retirement benefits at age 67 through SSA. I am currently 62. I do not want to claim SS benefits early. My husband recently retired at his full retirement age (66 and 4 months) and will be getting benefits through the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). It has been suggested that I should claim spousal benefits through the RRB at age 62 (as long as annual earned income does not exceed approx. $21K; I currently work part-time) I am looking to confirm that if I were to claim spousal benefits at 62 (through my husband’s RRB), it does not trigger that I have claimed my own SS benefits early. In other words, it in no way affects my ability to claim my full SS benefits at 67. I understand that as of a 2015 law change, this would no longer be possible if both of us were under the SSA. Since this question does require coordination between the SSA and the RRB, and both seem to indicate that they are not familiar with the rules of the other (per phone calls and meetings), we are not confident and are looking for some assurance. We have been unsuccessful in locating any documentation that addresses this issue directly. Would appreciate your assistance in clarifying the rules/options and in finding documentation.

Hi there,

Thank you for your question related to Social Security and Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits.

RRB benefits and Social Security benefits work hand in hand, meaning that the rules that surround the programs are almost identical.

However, the main difference is that if someone paid into the RRB for 30 years or more, they are eligible to claim their full railroad retirement benefit (annuity) as early as age 60.

Also, the spouse of someone collecting a RRB benefit can take a spousal railroad benefit early and then switch to their own Social Security later.

If collecting RRB benefits between age 60 and FRA, the earnings test will apply to any earnings you have.

Railroad benefits are usually some of the more complicated situations so if you need additional help, please feel free to reach out to our team for an initial consultation. Please email and reach out to Tom Drapala directly at Thomas.Drapala@rssa.com and he can give you a complimentary initial consultation to learn more and give you some insight as to how he can help you.

Best of luck,

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