Many railroad employees have served in the Armed Forces of the United States. Under certain conditions, their military service may be creditable as railroad service under the Railroad Retirement Act (RRA).

The following questions and answers provide information on how military service may be credited toward Railroad Retirement benefits.

1. Under what conditions can military service be credited as railroad service?

The intent behind the crediting of military service under the RRA is to prevent career railroad employees from losing retirement credits while performing active-duty military service during a war or national emergency period. Therefore, to be creditable as compensation under the RRA, service in the U.S. Armed Forces must be preceded by railroad service in the same or preceding calendar year. With the exceptions noted later, the employee must also have entered military service when the United States was at war or in a state of national emergency, or have served in the armed forces involuntarily. Military service is involuntary when an employee is required by law, such as Selective Service System conscription or troop call-up from a reserve unit, to leave railroad service to perform active duty military service.

Only active-duty military service is creditable under the RRA. A person is considered to have been on active duty while commissioned, or enrolled, in the active service of the Armed Forces of the United States (including the U.S. Coast Guard), or while ordered to federal active duty from any reserve component of the uniformed armed forces.

2. What are some examples of creditable service performed by a member of a reserve component, such as the Army Reserve?

Any military service a reservist is required to perform as a result of a call-up to active duty, such as during a partial mobilization, is creditable under the RRA, so long as the military service is preceded by railroad service in the same or preceding year.

Annual training duty as a member of a reserve component of a uniformed service is also considered active duty and may be creditable, provided the railroad employee service requirement is met. The period of active duty for training also includes authorized travel time to and from any such training duty. However, weekend alone or evening reserve duty is not creditable.

Active duty in a state National Guard or state Air National Guard unit may be creditable only while the reservist was called to federal active duty by Congress or the president of the United States. Emergency call-up of the National Guard by a governor for riot or flood control would not be creditable.

3. What are the dates of the war or national emergency periods?

The war or national emergency periods are:

  • August 2, 1990, to date as yet undetermined.
  • December 16, 1950, through September 14, 1978.
  • September 8, 1939, through June 14, 1948.

If military service began during a war or national emergency period, any active duty service the employee was required to continue in beyond the end of the war or national emergency is creditable, except that voluntary service extending beyond September 14, 1978, is not creditable.

Railroad workers who voluntarily served in the armed forces between June 15, 1948, and December 15, 1950, when there was no declared national state of emergency, can be given Railroad Retirement credit for their military service if they:

  • performed railroad service in the year they entered or the year before they entered military serviceand;
  • returned to rail service in the year their military service ended, or in the following year, and;
  • had no intervening nonrailroad employment.

4. How can military service be used to increase benefits paid by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)?

Railroad Retirement annuities are based on length of service and earnings. If military service is creditable as railroad service, a person will receive additional compensation credits for each month of creditable military service and railroad service credit for each active military service month not already credited by actual railroad service.

Creditable military service may be used in addition to regular railroad service to meet certain service requirements, such as the basic 10-year or 5-year service requirements for a regular annuity, the 20-year requirement for an occupational disability annuity before age 60, the 25-year requirement for a supplemental annuity, or the 30-year requirement for early retirement benefits.

5. Can United States Merchant Marine service be creditable for Railroad Retirement purposes?

No. Service with the Merchant Marine or civilian employment with the Department of Defense is not creditable, even if performed in wartime.

6. Are Railroad Retirement annuities based in part on military service credits reduced if other benefits, such as military service pensions or payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs, are also payable on the basis of the same military service?

No. While Railroad Retirement employee annuities are subject to reductions for dual entitlement to Social Security benefits and, under certain conditions, federal, state or local government pensions, as well as certain other payments, Railroad Retirement employee annuities are always exempt from reduction for military service pensions or payments by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

7. Are the unemployment and sickness benefits payable by the RRB affected if an employee is also receiving a military service pension?

Yes. The unemployment and sickness benefits payable by the RRB are affected if a claimant is also receiving a military service pension. However, payments made by the Department of Veterans Affairs will not affect railroad unemployment or sickness benefits.

When a claimant is receiving a military service pension or benefits under any social insurance law for days in which he or she is entitled to benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, railroad unemployment or sickness benefits are payable only to the extent to which they exceed the other payments for those days. In many cases, the amount of a military service pension precludes the payment of unemployment or sickness benefits by the RRB. Examples of other such social insurance payments are firefighters’ and police pensions, or certain workers’ compensation payments. Claimants should report all such payments promptly to avoid having to refund benefits later.

8. Can proof of military service be filed in advance of retirement?

Yes. Railroad employees are encouraged to file their military service proofs well before retirement to expedite the annuity application process and avoid delays caused by inadequate proofs. Proofs can be mailed to an employee’s local RRB field office, or placed in the secure lockboxes/door slots outside of an RRB field office’s doors. (Lockboxes and door slots are checked daily.) Employee information will be recorded and stored electronically until an employee retires. All evidence brought or mailed to an RRB office will be handled carefully and returned promptly. 

If employees do not have an official record of their military service, their local RRB office will explain how to get acceptable evidence. 

9. How can an employee get more information about the crediting of his or her military service by the RRB?

More information is available by visiting the RRB’s website, RRB.gov, or by calling an RRB office toll-free at 1-877-772-5772. Persons can find the address of the RRB office servicing their area by calling the agency’s toll-free number or by clicking on the Field Office Locator tab at RRB.gov. RRB field offices currently offer limited in-person service by appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 1-877-772-5772. Individuals should bring a photo ID when visiting a field office, and, depending on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the county in which the field office is located, may be required to wear an appropriate face mask. In such circumstances, if visitors do not have a mask, one will be provided for them. 

This month, we would like to pay homage to those who served in the Armed Forces. General Committee 2 is committed to recognizing its veteran members and making sure they know that we appreciate them and their service to our country. As a show of respect, however modest, this issue’s report is dedicated to honoring a veteran member whose service has extended into the work he’s done for fellow veterans on the railroad.

For Brother Styka, helping his fellow veterans is something about which he feels deeply passionate, and he values being able to apply the lessons he learned from his experiences to help make things easier for others.

Brother Toby Styka, a member of SMART Local 256 who works on Metra Chicago, is proud of his military service and passionate about assisting those who share his background. Having served in the Army from 1987 to 1995, including deployment during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, he understands the challenges servicemembers face when they return to civilian life, particularly around accessing benefits and support that will help them succeed. This is something Brother Styka himself encountered when he sought assistance for health issues that arose as a result of his service.

Realizing that many others might be confronting similar barriers, he started a veterans’ program at Metra for veterans to learn about the benefits they can receive and the programs available to them. For Brother Styka, helping his fellow veterans is something about which he feels deeply passionate, and he values being able to apply the lessons he learned from his experiences to help make things easier for others. Ultimately, Brother Styka is proud to support fellow veteran railroaders, and his program has been successful.

Beyond this important work, Brother Styka also enjoys hunting, taking trips on his motorcycle and travelling. He has been married to his wife, Tammy, for eight years, and he has two daughters, Kellie and Jenna, and two stepchildren, Morgan and Zach.

Members of SMART Local 206 demonstrated our union’s commitment to acting on our values during the San Diego Wounded Warrior Project Carry Forward 5K, held on August 20. Carry Forward 5Ks – which take place at cities across the country throughout the year – are fitness and fundraising events that give participants the chance to both pay tribute to and raise money for wounded veterans, helping fulfil the Wounded Warrior Project’s mission of honoring and empowering wounded warriors. During the San Diego Carry Forward run, Local 206 showed out in force.

“The SMART Army represented like no other team in both numbers and dollars donated, with 97 registered and over $10,000 raised,” Financial Secretary-Treasurer/Business Manager Dave Gauthier wrote on Facebook.

As part of the fundraising effort, Local 206 challenged other area labor unions to get involved – and they did, most notably IBEW Local 569. It was a display not just of labor solidarity, but of the vital role union members play in serving their communities.

“Although this money is going to help our wounded heroes, the day had a big impact on our members and their families too, including several of our veteran members – two of them came to us directly from Wounded Warriors here in San Diego,” Gauthier added. “You could see the excitement and appreciation in their faces as we gathered together to make a difference in our community and our country.”

Pictured left to right are SMART Local 71 members Paul Holland, Nick Hoffman, Anthony Paris, Shilo Rogers, Dan Morino, Jeff Gatti and Ryan Hurley. As part of Local 71’s SMART Army and Apprenticeship Community Service programs, these members partici­pated in a cleanup of Raymond Klimek Veteran’s Park in North Tonawanda, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo. Spear­headed by Paris, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran, the beautification project took place on May 21–22, one weekend ahead of Memorial Day. Not pictured are Busi­ness Manager Paul Crist and Business Agent Timothy Benes, who also participated in the cleanup.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) added the Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau (TABB) as a third certification body for certifying personnel and contractors who perform testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) on heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); water balancing; and sound and vibration equipment testing. The addition was effective Nov. 1, 2021.

With endorsements and acceptance/ inclusion from the VA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and construction companies nationwide, TABB is the professional’s choice for the testing, adjusting and balancing of HVAC systems.

“Certification provides assurance to building owners that a particular contractor will meet a specified level of quality. The need for highly skilled technicians has increased with the complexity of HVAC systems.”

– From a 2020 white paper released the University of California, Davis, Western Cooling Efficiency Center (WCEC)

The decision was based, in part, on a white paper released in 2020 by the University of California, Davis, Western Cooling Efficiency Center (WCEC) — “Testing, Adjusting and Balancing HVAC Systems: An Overview of Certification Agencies” — which examined the benefits of using certified contractors and favorably positioned TABB as the first and only personnel-certifying body accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in this field. The paper also stated TABB conforms to ISO/IEC 17024, an internationally recognized standard for personnel certification bodies.

TABB has developed certifications to serve as verification that technicians and supervisors have the knowledge and experience needed to complete the job tasks at hand. A well-balanced HVAC system isn’t just efficient; it’s also safer due to enhanced ventilation rates and overall indoor air quality.

“Certification provides assurance to building owners that a particular contractor will meet a specified level of quality,” the white paper explained. “The need for highly skilled technicians has increased with the complexity of HVAC systems.”

TABB is the first program to gain ANSI accreditation for certification in the testing, adjusting and balancing industry. Certification is a statement that the technician, supervisor and contractor demonstrate the highest level of professional expertise

Despite a rise in economic insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Helmets to Hardhats assisted its construction industry affiliates in placing 2,324 military service members and veterans into building trades registered apprenticeship programs in 2020, according to new data released by the organization.
SMART is an active participant in Helmets to Hardhats – a national, nonprofit program that connects transitioning active-duty military service members, veterans and reservists with skilled training and career opportunities in the building trades.
“It underscores that there is a solid line from the military to the building trades, specifically in SMART, but with all the building trades,” said SMART Director of Organizing Darrell Roberts. “And, despite the pandemic, that line did not break.”

“There is a solid line from the military to the building trades, specifically in SMART, but with all the building trades. And, despite the pandemic, that line did not break.”

– SMART Director of Organizing Darrell Roberts

Roberts served in the U.S. Navy for four years, the Army National Guard for six years and is the former executive director of Helmets to Hardhats.
Helmets to Hardhats announced its total number of placements – or Known Successful Transitions (KSTs) data – for calendar year 2020 in May 2021. Since its inception in 2003, the organization has helped more than 38,000 military service members and veterans transition to the building trades, setting each of them on a pathway toward a middle-class, family-sustaining career in construction.
“This new data represents the collective efforts of all building trades unions and their signatory contractors to provide career opportunities for veterans and is a shining example of their commitment to this mission, even in terrible economic times,” said Helmets to Hardhats Executive Director David Porter.
“Helmets to Hardhats serves as a bridge for military service men and women in search of a secure career once their time in the armed forces comes to an end,” added Porter,. “These opportunities help ease the transition back into civilian life as they launch a new career.”
 
 

SMART TD Nebraska State Legislative Director Bob Borgeson invites all SMART members in his state to come out to Lincoln to participate in a Veterans Day parade at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 9.
“I hope for a good turnout,” he said.
A large portion of both the TD and Sheet Metal membership are veterans, and our union’s participation in these events help show an appreciation for U.S. armed forces veterans’ service to our country and the freedoms we in the United States enjoy.
TD Local 305 in Lincoln is the host Local for the event and has contributed toward defraying transportation costs for the event. Borgeson said other contributions to help offset those costs would be greatly appreciated and can be mailed to the Nebraska State Legislative Board’s office, 3333 S. 24th St, Omaha, NE 68108.
Checks should be made payable to the Nebraska State Legislative Board: NSLB LO030.
For additional information, contact Borgeson at (402) 679-0872 or SMARTDIRECTOR@cox.net.

FMCSA-LogoWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced nearly $2.3 million in grants, double the amount provided in 2014, to 13 technical and community colleges across the country to help train veterans and their families for jobs as commercial bus and truck drivers.  The funding is provided through FMCSA’s Commercial Motor Vehicle – Operator Safety Training (CMV-OST) grant program.

“We support job opportunities for Veterans who have served our country, but not only because it is the right thing to do, it also makes good sense,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “One of the most important, fastest growing employment sectors is for qualified commercial vehicle drivers and Veterans bring invaluable experience to the industry and can enter the workforce quickly.”

“We doubled the amount we have previously provided through this grant program because of the important role qualified commercial truck and bus drivers hold in moving our economy forward,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “The men and women who complete these commercial driver training programs also serve our country in a vital way by making safety their top priority every mile, every day.” 

FMCSA awards CMV-OST grants to a variety of educational institutions that provide truck driving training, including accredited public or private colleges, universities, vocational-technical schools, post-secondary educational institutions, truck driver training schools, associations, and state and local governments, including federally-recognized Native American tribal governments.  
 
The 2015 FMCSA grants announced today will provide training for hundreds of new students.  The awards were made to the following organizations:

  • California – West Hills Community College District, Coalinga, $199,460
  • Georgia – Central Georgia Technical College, Macon, $146,771
  • Maryland – Cecil College, North East, $101,825
  • New York – Erie 2 Chautauqua Cattaraugus BOCES, Angola, $105,201
  • North Carolina – North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, $200,000
  • Ohio – Cuyahoga Community College District, Cleveland, $195,040
  • Oklahoma – Central Technical Center, Drumright, $200,000
  • Pennsylvania – Lancaster County Career & Technology Center, Willow Street, $194,811
  • Pennsylvania – Northampton County Area Community College, Bethlehem, $134,400
  • Pennsylvania – The Sage Corporation, Camp Hill, $198,504
  • South Carolina – Orangeburg-Callhoun Technical College, Orangeburg, $197,399
  • Texas – Alamo Colleges/ St. Phillip’s College, San Antonio, $196,680
  • Virginia – Tidewater Community College, Norfolk, $199,879

The Commercial Motor Vehicle – Operator Safety Training Grant Program was established by Congress in 2005 through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), to expand the number of commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders possessing enhanced operator safety training to help reduce the severity and number of crashes on U.S. roads involving large trucks and buses.

In July 2014, FMCSA announced that the Military Skills Test Waiver Program had been expanded to include all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  

Under this program, state licensing agencies have authority to waive the skills test portion of the CDL application for active duty or recently separated veterans who possess at least two years of safe driving experience operating a military truck or bus. Waiving the skills test expedites the civilian commercial drivers licensing application process and reduces expenses for qualified individuals and operating costs to state licensing agencies.

FMCSA last year also announced that, beginning with Virginia residents, returning military service personnel who possess a state-issued Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate due to a limb impairment will automatically be recognized as equivalent to an FMCSA-issued SPE certificate and allowed to obtain an interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL).  FMCSA encourages other state licensing agencies to establish comparable equivalency SPE programs.

To learn more about the Commercial Motor Vehicle – Operator Safety Training Grant Program, please visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/grants/cmv-operator-safety-training-grant/commercial-motor-vehicle-cmv-operator-safety-training.

For a listing of last year’s CMV – OST grant recipients, please visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/fmcsa-awards-1-million-help-train-and-place-veterans-careers-commercial-truck-and-bus.

To learn more about the Military Skills Test Waiver Program, please visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/commercial-drivers-license/military.

To learn more about the U.S. Department of Transportation’s dedication to our nation’s veterans, please visit http://www.dot.gov/veteranstransportationcareers.

union_pacific_logo OMAHA, Neb. – Profiles in Diversity Journal recently recognized Union Pacific as one of the nation’s 25 Most Influential Companies for Veteran Hiring. The only railroad on the list, Union Pacific was selected for its commitment to veteran hiring, progressive reservist policies and dedication to supporting employee veterans.

“Union Pacific understands and values the skills veterans bring to the workforce,” said Roy Schroer, Union Pacific’s vice president of Human Resources. “The military instills a strong work ethic and world view that strengthens our organization at all levels.”

In 2013, Union Pacific hired more than 800 military veterans, including 95 disabled veterans. These veterans make up approximately 25 percent of all new hires in 2013. During the last five years, 24 percent of Union Pacific’s hires have been veterans, and overall, veterans comprise about 20 percent of the company’s workforce. Leadership and teamwork skills, wide-ranging areas of expertise gained during their service, familiarity with nontraditional working hours and experience working outdoors are just some of the characteristics that make military personnel a good fit with jobs at Union Pacific.

Union Pacific actively recruits veterans through its involvement with military transition offices, military education offices, reserve and National Guard units, career fairs, information sessions, employer panels, resume review assistance and by serving on local military committees and boards.

The railroad’s progressive reservist policy is one example of how Union Pacific supports its reserve, active duty and veteran employees, and their families. All employees called to active duty are compensated for any difference between military and company pay, and Union Pacific continues benefit coverage for deployed employees and their families. In addition, the employee resource group UPVETS is devoted to attracting, developing and retaining employees who are military veterans.

Union Pacific frequently is recognized for its commitment to military veterans. The company received the inaugural Hiring Our Heroes Award for Post 9/11 Veteran Employment and Internships from the National Chamber Foundation and has been named a military-friendly employer 10 times by G.I. Jobs. The company is a member of the Army Reserve’s Employee Partnership Initiative, supports the Army Partnership for Youth Success program, and is a past recipient of the Freedom Award, the U.S. government’s highest employer recognition.

Union Pacific offers many unique employment opportunities for veterans, including train crew, diesel mechanics, diesel electricians, assistant signal workers and track laborers. Engineers in the computer science, electrical, civil and mechanical areas will find leadership opportunities in the Information Technology department or through the company’s Operations Management Training Program. Interested candidates can view job postings at www.UP.jobs.

DOT_Logo_150px WASHINGTON – A new study released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommended a series of regulatory changes to further ease the transition of military personnel and veterans into much-needed civilian jobs driving commercial motor vehicles. In releasing the study, FMCSA also announced plans to implement the changes as soon as possible.

“Our military men and women make tremendous sacrifices in service to our nation, and helping veterans transition to the civilian workforce when they come home is just one way to show our gratitude,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Today’s report builds on the work FMCSA has already accomplished on behalf of our veterans and outlines opportunities to help even more qualify for jobs based on the skills and training they receive in the armed forces.”

The study, which was directed by Congress in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21 Century Act (MAP-21) one year ago, analyzed training, testing and licensing similarities and differences between military and civilian commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements. A number of federal and state regulatory changes were identified that would not adversely impact safety but would allow returning U.S. military personnel possessing extensive training and experience operating trucks, buses and other heavy equipment to more easily and conveniently receive a state-issued CDL.

The opportunities outlined in the report require formal rulemaking action, which FMCSA will initiate this year. The proposed changes include:

  • Extending the period of time, from 90 days to one year, in which an active duty and recently separated veterans can take advantage of a Military Skills Test Waiver. The waiver, which FMCSA first implemented in 2011, allows states to waive CDL skills tests for service members with two years of safe driving experience with similar vehicles. Today, 46 states and Washington, D.C. offer the waiver, which has already provided almost 2,000 military personnel a quicker pathway to a job;
  • Updating federal regulations to allow over 60,000 service members trained and employed in the operation of heavy vehicles, many of which are nearly identical to civilian commercial motor vehicles, to immediately qualify for a CDL while still on active duty; and
  • Allowing a service member who is stationed in one state, but licensed in another, to obtain a CDL before being discharged.

“The demand for truck drivers will continue to rise in the coming years, so we are taking action to remove the obstacles that prevent military veterans from finding employment in the industry,” said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “The men and women who serve in uniform commit their lives to protecting our country — in many cases by operating heavy vehicles — and there are no better credentials for becoming a safe truck or bus driver.”

FMCSA will continue to explore other ways to ease the transition from military occupations to jobs requiring CDLs, including waiving the requirements for pre-employment drug testing for recently discharged military personnel based on their recent participation in random drug testing programs run by the military.

In August, FMCSA announced almost $1 million in grants to six colleges to help increase enrollment in commercial motor vehicle training programs, making it easier for veterans and their spouses to obtain CDLs and find transportation jobs. These grants are in addition to similar funding awards made by FMCSA two years ago.

The agency also granted a petition from Virginia in May to allow their military bases to be certified as third-party testers of military personnel for CDL knowledge and skills tests. New Mexico and Wisconsin are preparing to follow suit.

From 2010 to 2020, the need for heavy-vehicle drivers is expected to grow by more than 17 percent — faster than the national average for other occupations. Jobs as city, tour and school bus drivers, as well as light truck or delivery services drivers, are expected to continue growing at the national average.

A copy of the study is available here.