Each year, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) prepares a “Certificate of Service Months and Compensation” (Form BA-6) for every railroad employee with creditable railroad compensation in the previous calendar year. The RRB will mail the forms to employees during the first half of June. While every effort has been made to maintain current addresses for all active railroad employees, anyone with compensation reported in 2017 who has not received Form BA-6 by July 1, or needs a replacement, should contact an RRB field office by calling the agency toll-free at 1-877-772-5772.
Form BA-6 provides employees with a record of their railroad retirement service and compensation, and the information shown is used to determine whether an employee qualifies for benefits and the amount of those benefits. It is important that employees review their Form BA-6 to see whether their own records of service months and creditable compensation agree with the figures shown on the form.
In checking the 2017 compensation total, employees should be aware that only annual earnings up to $127,200 were creditable for railroad retirement purposes in that year, and that $127,200 is the maximum amount shown on the form. To assist employees in reviewing their service credits, the form also shows service credited on a month-by-month basis for 2016, 2015 and 2014, when the creditable compensation maximum was $118,500 for both 2016 and 2015, and $117,000 for 2014. The form also identifies the employer(s) reporting the employee’s 2017 service and compensation.
Besides the months of service reported by employers, Form BA-6 shows the number of any additional service months deemed by the RRB. Deemed service months may be credited under certain conditions for an employee who did not work in all 12 months of the year, but had creditable tier II earnings exceeding monthly prorations of the creditable tier II earnings maximum for the year. However, the total of reported and deemed service months may never exceed 12 in a calendar year, and no service months, reported or deemed, can be credited after retirement, severance, resignation, discharge or death.
The form also indicates the number of months of verified military service creditable as service under the Railroad Retirement Act, if the service was previously reported to the RRB. Employees are encouraged to submit proofs of age and/or military service in advance of their actual retirement. Filing these proofs with the RRB in advance will streamline the benefit application process and prevent payment delays.
For employees who received separation or severance payments, the section of the form designated “Taxable Amount” shows the amounts reported by employers of any separation allowance or severance payments that were subject to railroad retirement tier II taxes. This information is shown on the form because a lump sum, approximating part or all of the tier II taxes deducted from such payments made after 1984 which did not provide additional tier II credits, may be payable by the RRB upon retirement to qualified employees or to survivors if the employee dies before retirement. The amount of an allowance included in an employee’s regular compensation is shown under “Compensation Amount.”
Form BA-6 also shows, in the section designated “Employee Contributions,” the cumulative amount of tier II railroad retirement payroll taxes paid by the employee over and above tier I social security equivalent payroll taxes. While the RRB does not collect or maintain payroll tax information, the agency computes this amount from its compensation records in order to advise retired employees of their payroll tax contributions for Federal income tax purposes.
Employees should check their name, address, birth date and sex shown at the top of the form. If the form shows the birth date as 99-9999 and the gender code is “U” (for unknown), it means the RRB is verifying his or her social security number with the Social Security Administration. Otherwise, if the personal identifying information is incorrect or incomplete (generally a case where the employee’s surname has more than 10 letters and the form shows only the first 10 letters) or the address is not correct, the employee should contact an RRB field office. The field office can then correct the RRB’s records. This is important in order to prevent identity or security-related problems that could arise if the employee wants to use certain internet services available on the RRB’s website at www.rrb.gov.
Employees may view their railroad retirement service and compensation records; get annuity estimates; apply for or claim railroad unemployment benefits; claim sickness benefits and access their railroad unemployment insurance account statements through the RRB’s website. To use these online services, an employee must set up an RRB online account and obtain a password. Instructions for establishing an online account can be accessed via the “Benefit Online Services” link on the home page. For security purposes, first-time users must enter a Password Request Code (PRC). The agency automatically mails a PRC to any employee who files a paper application for unemployment or sickness benefits. If an individual has not received a PRC, they can request one by clicking the appropriate link on the “Benefit Online Services” page. They will then receive the PRC by mail at their home address in about 10 days.
Employees can also request that printouts of their individual railroad retirement records of service months and compensation be mailed to them. A PIN/Password is not required to use this service. It can be accessed by visiting www.rrb.gov, going to “Benefit Online Services” and then clicking on “No Login Required.”
If the employee’s name was incomplete on Form BA-6, and he or she has not yet contacted an RRB field office to correct it, the employee should enter his or her first and middle initials and his or her surname just as it appears on the Form BA-6 or a previously furnished printout of service and compensation, along with the other requested information, in order to submit an online request.
Any other discrepancies in Form BA-6 should be reported promptly in writing to:
U.S. Railroad Retirement Board
844 North Rush Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611-1275
The employee must include his or her social security number in the letter. Form BA-6 also explains what other documentation and information should be provided. The law limits to four years the period during which corrections to service and compensation amounts can be made.
For most employees, the address of the RRB office serving their area is provided on the form along with the RRB’s nationwide toll-free number (1-877-772-5772). RRB field offices are open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, except on federal holidays.
Sample Form BA-6