Sick? Hurt? Can't Work?
You may be eligible to receive benefits, regardless of whether you are sick, injured, furloughed or suspended. Lower in the page are phone numbers and web links for the various BMWED Healthcare and Benefit Providers and Approved Work Place Accident Lawyers. Please contact these providers for answers to your benefit questions.
January 1, 2015 - BMWED Cash and Non-Cash Compensation as of January 1, 2015. Illustrated herein is the annual and monthly values attributed to cash and non-cash compensation accorded to Maintenance of Way employees under the terms of the April 25, 2012 National Agreement, and statutory benefits provided by applicable Federal law.
A chart was constructed using an average hourly wage of $25.59, the figure used by National Division to calculate National Division dues for Class I railroad employees for the calendar year 2015, and all figures are computed on the basis of an employee working straight time only on a twelve (12) month no-furlough basis.
Obviously, figures for taxes paid by the Carrier and employee towards Railroad Retirement will vary based upon each employee's actual hourly rate of pay and number of hours worked in any calendar year. The point of the chart is to provide a reasonable example of economic value provided to BMWED members under the terms of the National Agreement and applicable Federal law. Also note that, the values for the health insurance include the actual amounts paid by the carriers to the various health insurance providers and administrators, including on-duty injury coverage. As you can see, those figures are greater than the amounts used to calculate the employee cost-sharing contribution. The employee cost sharing contribution remains the same as it did for 2013 and 2014 at $198.
Read the National Division's correspondence and view value chart here.
November 9, 2012 - Vision care for the National railroad plan GA23000 will be changing from VSP to EyeMed effective January 1, 2013. Benefits will be managed exactly as outlined in the Railroad Employees National Vision Plan Summary meaning there will be no change to our plan's benefits or coverage. Call EyeMed's customer service at 855-212-6003 or visit their web site at www.eyemedvisioncare.com/railroad View a plan summary including in-network and out-of-network costs, along with a Q&A sheet here.
September 26, 2011 - Information concerning Freight members covered under the Railroad Employees National Health and Welfare Plan (GA-23000). In late September, an enrollment notice will be mailed to our members who are covered. Reference is made to the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act which provides for enrollment of children to age 26. The PPACA (the Act) only applies to Medical care coverage, and not to Dental or Vision. View Enrollment notice here.
January 20, 2010 NEW YORK -- Managed care company UnitedHealth Group said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit jumped 30 percent on higher premium revenue, despite a continued decline in commercial enrollment, the Associated Press reported. Read More...
December 2009 UnitedHealthcare Railroad Retirement Specialists Retirement is a big step. You'll be asked to make many important decisions, including many about your benefits. To help, UnitedHealthcare is excited to introduce enhanced retirement planning support provided by a new service from UnitedHealthcare Railroad Retirement Specialists! Read More...
November 30, 2009 Guidelines for determining when employee cost-sharing contributions are required under the railroad employees National Health and Welfare Plan (GA-23000)
January 2009 Lancaster, Pennsylvania - update on the status of the United Health Care (UHC) network in the Lancaster area. UHC has established a special “800" number for our Lancaster members to address problems. This service will provide the list of medical providers, but is also required to call these doctors for you and make sure that they will accept new patients. The number is 1-800-382-8131.
read General Chairman Dodd's letter updating UHC status.
The Railroad Employees National Health and Welfare Plan Announces Effort to Collect Dependent Social Security Numbers To Comply With New Federal Law. Consequently, The Railroad Employees National Health and Welfare Plan (The Plan) is participating in an all-out effort to obtain Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for all covered dependents (wives, husbands and children) in order to achieve compliance with these new reporting requirements. In addition, the Medicare Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) will also be required for any dependent eligible for Medicare.
In order to get this initiative underway, Railroad Enrollment Services will begin mailing information to those members identified with missing dependent SSNs and/or HICWs. The members identified with missing dependent information should provide this information through a special direct mailing in early June...read more
Railroad Retirement Tax Rate to Increase. The amounts of compensation subject to railroad retirement tier I and tier II payroll taxes will increase in 2009. However, the tier I tax rate on employees and employers remains unchanged. Under the Railroad Retirement and Survivors’ Improvement Act of 2001, tier II tax rates are determined annually by an average...read more
October 28, 2008, representatives of the Cooperating Railway Labor Organizations (CRLO) and the National Carrier’s Conference Committee (NCCC) met with representatives of United Healthcare to set the rates for the 2009 renewal of coverage under Railroad Employees National Health and Plan (‘the Plan). As a result of that meeting, the monthly employee cost-sharing contribution for the 2009 calendar year will be $170.96; and increase of $4.71 over the 2008 contribution rate of $166.25.
View the BMWED National Division’s October 30, 2008 letter addressing these changes.
May 8, 2008 Important information for Lancaster, Pennsylvania area BMWED members and United Healthcare, including contact information to assist you in finding health care providers in the UHC network.
Railroad Retirement Board Benefits
Most railroad retirement annuities, like social security benefits, will increase in January 2019 due to a rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the third quarter of 2017 to the corresponding period of the current year.
Cost-of-living increases are calculated in both the tier I and tier II benefits included in a railroad retirement annuity. Tier I benefits, like social security benefits, will increase by 2.8 percent, which is the percentage of the CPI rise. Tier II benefits will go up by 0.9 percent, which is 32.5 percent of the CPI increase. Vested dual benefit payments and supplemental annuities also paid by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) are not adjusted for the CPI change.
In January 2019, the average regular railroad retirement employee annuity will increase $60 a month to $2,808 and the average of combined benefits for an employee and spouse will increase $86 a month to $4,078. For those aged widow(er)s eligible for an increase, the average annuity will increase $34 a month to $1,398. However, widow(er)s whose annuities are being paid under the Railroad Retirement and Survivors’ Improvement Act of 2001 will not receive annual cost-of-living adjustments until their annuity amount is exceeded by the amount that would have been paid under prior law, counting all interim cost-of-living increases otherwise payable. Some 52 percent of the widow(er)s on the RRB’s rolls are being paid under the 2001 law.
If a railroad retirement or survivor annuitant also receives a social security or other government benefit, such as a public service pension, the increased tier I benefit is reduced by the increased government benefit. Tier II cost-of-living increases are not reduced by increases in other government benefits. If a widow(er) whose annuity is being paid under the 2001 law is also entitled to an increased government benefit, her or his railroad retirement survivor annuity may decrease.
However, the total amount of the combined railroad retirement widow(er)’s annuity and other government benefits will not be less than the total payable before the cost-of-living increase and any increase in Medicare premium deductions.
The cost-of-living increase follows a tier I increase of 2.0 percent in January 2018, which had been the largest in 6 years. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced the Medicare Part B premiums for 2019, and this information is available at Medicare.gov.
In late December the RRB will mail notices to all annuitants providing a breakdown of the annuity rates payable to them in January 2019.
If you do not meet these requirements but have at least 10 years of service, you might still be able to qualify under the conditions described for extended and accelerated benefits.
View RRB FAQ's
Comparison of Benefits Under Railroad Retirement and Social Security
Employers and employees covered by the Railroad Retirement Act pay higher retirement taxes than those covered by the Social Security Act, so that railroad retirement benefits remain higher than social security benefits, especially for “career” employees who have 30 or more years of service.
What follows are questions and answers that show the differences in railroad retirement and social security benefits payable at the close of the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018. They also show the differences in age requirements and payroll taxes under the two systems. View Q&A here...
July 8, 2014 Update from the RRB Labor Member
Railroad Retirement Board General Counsel's Opinion regarding Creditable Service
June 17, 2014
A question was presented to the RRB regarding an injured employee who requested and received payment for a vacation day in a month while off sick. The employee contended that payment of the vacation day should be considered creditable compensation under the Act and should, therefore, count as a qualifying month of railroad service for retirement. However, the Carrier's position was that payment of the vacation day was merely for timekeeping purposes and was not compensation for service rendered. The RRB General Counsel sustained the employee's position and generally opined that vacation and holiday pay constitutes creditable service even if that is the only compensation paid in the month.
"A payment made by an employer to an individual through an employer's payroll shall be presumed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to be compensation for service rendered by such individual as an employee of the employer in the period with respect to which the payment is made." 45 USC 231(h)(l). Board regulations further specify that creditable compensation includes vacation pay (20 CFR §211.2(b)(4)) and state, "Payments made to an employee with respect to vacation or holidays shall be considered creditable compensation whether or not the employee takes the vacation or holiday." 20 CFR §211.4.
View President Simpson's letter and legal opinion from RRB
The following questions and answers describe RRB benefits, eligibility requirements, and how to claim them.
1. What are the eligibility requirements for railroad unemployment and sickness benefits in July 2017?
To qualify for normal railroad unemployment or sickness benefits, an employee must have had railroad earnings of at least $3,637.50 in calendar year 2016, counting no more than $1,455 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail industry in 2016 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad service in 2016.
Under certain conditions, employees who do not qualify on the basis of their 2016 earnings may still be able to receive benefits in the new benefit year. Employees with at least 10 years of service (120 or more months of service) who received normal benefits in the benefit year ending June 30, 2017, may be eligible for extended benefits, and employees with at least 10 years of service (120 or more months of service) might qualify for accelerated benefits if they have rail earnings of at least $3,637.50 in 2017, not counting earnings of more than $1,455 a month.
In order to qualify for extended unemployment benefits, a claimant must not have voluntarily quit work without good cause and not have voluntarily retired. To qualify for extended sickness benefits, a claimant must not have voluntarily retired and must be under age 65.
To be eligible for accelerated benefits, a claimant must have 14 or more consecutive days of unemployment or sickness; not have voluntarily retired or, if claiming unemployment benefits, quit work without good cause; and, when claiming sickness benefits, be under age 65.
2. What is the daily benefit rate payable in the new benefit year beginning July 1, 2017?
Almost all employees will qualify for the maximum daily benefit rate of $72. Benefits are generally payable for the number of days of unemployment or sickness over four in 14-day claim periods, which yields $720 for each two full weeks of unemployment or sickness. Sickness benefits payable for the first 6 months after the month the employee last worked are subject to tier I railroad retirement payroll taxes, unless benefits are being paid for an on-the-job injury. (Claimants should be aware that as a result of a sequestration order under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the RRB will reduce unemployment and sickness benefits by 6.9 percent through September 30, 2017. As a result, the total maximum amount payable in a 2-week period covering 10 days of unemployment or sickness will be $670.32. The maximum amount payable for sickness benefits subject to tier I payroll taxes of 7.65 percent will be $619.04 over two weeks. Future reductions, should they occur, will be calculated based on applicable law.)
3. How long are these benefits payable?
Normal unemployment or sickness benefits are each payable for up to 130 days (26 weeks) in a benefit year. The total amount of each kind of benefit which may be paid in the new benefit year cannot exceed the employee’s railroad earnings in calendar year 2016, counting earnings up to $1,879 per month.
If normal benefits are exhausted, extended benefits are payable for up to 65 days (during 7 consecutive 14-day claim periods) to employees with at least 10 years of service (120 or more cumulative service months).
4. What is the waiting-period requirement for unemployment and sickness benefits?
Benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment or sickness over four in 14-day registration periods. Initial sickness claims must also begin with four consecutive days of sickness. However, during the first 14-day claim period in a benefit year, benefits are only payable for each day of unemployment or sickness in excess of seven which, in effect, provides a one-week waiting period. (If an employee has at least five days of unemployment or five days of sickness in a 14-day period, he or she should still file for benefits.) Separate waiting periods are required for unemployment and sickness benefits. However, only one seven-day waiting period is generally required during any period of continuing unemployment or sickness, even if that period continues into a subsequent benefit year.
5. Are there special waiting-period requirements if unemployment is due to a strike?
If a worker is unemployed because of a strike conducted in accordance with the Railway Labor Act, benefits are not payable for days of unemployment during the first 14 days of the strike, but benefits are payable during subsequent 14-day periods.
If a strike is in violation of the Railway Labor Act, unemployment benefits are not payable to employees participating in the strike. However, employees not among those participating in such an illegal strike, but who are unemployed on account of the strike, may receive benefits after the first two weeks of the strike.
While a benefit year waiting period cannot count toward a strike waiting period, the 14-day strike waiting period may count as the benefit year waiting period if a worker subsequently becomes unemployed for reasons other than a strike later in the benefit year.
6. Can employees in train and engine service receive unemployment benefits for days when they are standing by or laying over between scheduled runs?
No, not if they are standing by or laying over between regularly assigned trips or they missed a turn in pool service.
7. Can extra-board employees receive unemployment benefits between jobs?
Yes, but only if the miles and/or hours they actually worked were less than the equivalent of normal full-time work in their class of service during the 14-day claim period. Entitlement to benefits would also depend on the employee’s earnings.
8. How would an employee’s earnings in a claim period affect his or her eligibility for unemployment benefits?
If a claimant’s earnings for days worked, and/or days of vacation, paid leave, or other leave in a 14-day registration period are more than a certain indexed amount, no benefits are payable for any days of unemployment in that period. That registration period, however, can be used to satisfy the waiting period.
Earnings include pay from railroad and nonrailroad work, as well as part-time work and self-employment. Earnings also include pay that an employee would have earned except for failure to mark up or report for duty on time, or because he or she missed a turn in pool service or was otherwise not ready or willing to work. For the benefit year that begins July 2017, the amount is $1,455, which corresponds to the base year monthly compensation amount used in determining eligibility for benefits in each year. Also, even if an earnings test applies on the first claim in a benefit year, this will not prevent the first claim from satisfying the waiting period in a benefit year.
On the other hand, earnings of no more than $15 a day from work which is substantially less than full-time and not inconsistent with the holding of normal full-time employment may be considered subsidiary remuneration and may not prevent payment of any days in a claim. However, a claimant must be sure to report all full and part-time work on each claim, regardless of the amount of earnings, so the RRB can determine whether the work affects benefits.
9. How does a person apply for and claim unemployment benefits?
Claimants can file their applications for unemployment benefits, as well as their subsequent biweekly claims, by mail or online.
To apply by mail, claimants must obtain an application from their labor organization, employer, local RRB office, or the agency’s website. The completed application should be mailed to the local RRB office as soon as possible and, in any case, must be filed within 30 days of the date on which the claimant became unemployed or the first day for which he or she wishes to claim benefits. Benefits may be lost if the application is filed late.
To file their applications -- or their biweekly claims -- online, claimants must first establish an RRB online account at www.rrb.gov. Instructions on how to do so are available by visiting the Benefit Online Services section of the RRB’s website. Employees are encouraged to establish online accounts while still employed so the account is ready if they ever need to apply for these benefits or use other select RRB Internet services. Employees who have already established online accounts do not need to do so again.
The local RRB field office reviews the completed application, whether it was submitted by mail or online, and notifies the claimant’s current railroad employer, and base-year employer, if different. The employer has the opportunity to provide information about the benefit application.
After the RRB office processes the application, biweekly claim forms are mailed to the claimant, and are also available on the RRB’s website, as long as he or she remains unemployed and eligible for benefits. Claim forms should be signed and sent on or after the last day of the claim. This can be done by mail or electronically. The completed claim must be received by an RRB office within 15 days of the end of the claim or the date the claim form was mailed to the claimant or made available online, whichever is later. Claimants must not file both a paper claim and an online claim form for the same period(s).
Only one application needs to be filed during a benefit year, even if a claimant becomes unemployed more than once. However, a claimant must, in such a case, request a claim form from an RRB office within 30 days of the first day for which he or she wants to resume claiming benefits. These claims may then be filed by mail or online.
10. How does a person apply for and claim sickness benefits?
An application for sickness benefits can be obtained from railroad labor organizations, railroad employers, any RRB office or the agency’s website. An application and a doctor’s statement of sickness are required at the beginning of each period of continuing sickness for which benefits are claimed. Claimants should make a special effort to have the doctor’s statement of sickness completed promptly since no claims can be paid without it.
The RRB suggests that employees keep an application on hand for use in claiming sickness benefits, and that family members know where the form is kept and how to use it. If an employee becomes unable to work because of sickness or injury, the employee should complete the application and then have his or her doctor complete the statement of sickness. Employees should note that they must indicate on the application whether they are applying for sickness benefits because they were injured at work or have a work-related illness. They must also indicate whether they have filed or expect to file a lawsuit or claim against a third party for personal injury. If a claimant receives sickness benefits for an injury or illness for which he or she is paid damages, it is important to be aware that the RRB is entitled to reimbursement of either the amount of the benefits paid for the injury or illness, or the net amount of the settlement, after deducting the claimant’s gross medical, hospital, and legal expenses, whichever is less.
If the employee is too sick to complete the application, someone else may do so. In such cases, a family member should also complete Form SI-10, Statement of Authority to Act for Employee, which accompanies the statement of sickness.
After completion, the forms should be mailed to the RRB’s headquarters in Chicago by the seventh day of the illness or injury for which benefits are claimed. However, applications received after 10 days but within 30 days of the first day for which an employee wishes to claim benefits are generally considered timely filed if there is a good reason for the delay. After the RRB receives the application and statement of sickness and determines eligibility, biweekly claim forms are mailed to the claimant for completion and return to an RRB field office for processing. The RRB also makes claim forms available for completion online by those employees who establish an online account. The claim forms must be received at the RRB within 30 days of the last day of the claim period, or within 30 days of the date the claim form was mailed to the claimant or made available online, whichever is later. Benefits may be lost if an application or claim is filed late.
Claimants are reminded that while claim forms for sickness benefits can be submitted online, applications must be returned to the RRB by mail. Doctors’ statements of sickness can be submitted by mail or fax. Faxes must include a cover sheet from the doctor’s office.
11. Is a claimant’s employer notified each time a biweekly claim for unemployment or sickness benefits is filed?
The Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act requires the RRB to notify the claimant’s base-year employer each time a claim for benefits is filed. That employer has the right to submit information relevant to the claim before the RRB makes an initial determination on the claim. In addition, if a claimant’s base-year employer is not his or her current employer, the claimant’s current employer is also notified. The RRB must also notify the claimant’s base-year employer each time benefits are paid to a claimant. The base-year employer may protest the decision to pay benefits. Such a protest does not prevent the timely payment of benefits. However, a claimant may be required to repay benefits if the employer’s protest is ultimately successful. The employer also has the right to appeal an unfavorable decision to the RRB’s Bureau of Hearings and Appeals.
The RRB also conducts checks with other Federal agencies and all 50 States, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, to detect fraudulent benefit claims, and it checks with physicians to verify the accuracy of medical statements supporting sickness benefit claims.
12. How long does it take to receive payment?
Under the RRB’s Customer Service Plan, if a claimant filed an application for unemployment or sickness benefits, the RRB will release a claim form or a denial letter within 10 days of receiving his or her application. If a claim for subsequent biweekly unemployment or sickness benefits is filed, the RRB will certify a payment or release a denial letter within 10 days of the date the RRB receives the claim form. If the claimant is entitled to benefits, benefits will generally be paid within one week of that decision.
However, some claims for benefits may take longer to handle than others if they are more complex, or if an RRB office has to get information from other people or organizations. If this happens, claimants may expect an explanation and an estimate of the time required to make a decision.
Claimants who think an RRB office made the wrong decision about their benefits have the right to ask for review and to appeal. They will be notified of these rights each time an unfavorable decision is made on their claims.
13. How are payments made?
Railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits are paid by the U.S. Treasury’s Direct Deposit program. With Direct Deposit, benefit payments are made electronically to an employee’s bank, savings and loan, credit union or other financial institution. New applicants for unemployment and sickness benefits will be asked to provide information needed for Direct Deposit enrollment.
14. How can claimants get more information on railroad unemployment or sickness benefits?
Claimants with questions about unemployment or sickness benefits, or who are seeking information about their claims and benefit payments, can speak with a field service representative by calling toll-free (1-877-772-5772). Claimants can also obtain a summary of the unemployment and sickness benefits paid to them through the login required service menu of Benefit Online Services. This feature, called View RUIA Account Statement, is available to claimants who have established an RRB online account.
Persons can find the address of their local RRB field office through Field Office Locator or by using the automated service menu, which is available when calling toll-free. Most RRB field offices are open to the public on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., except on Wednesdays when offices are open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. All RRB offices are closed on Federal holidays.
2010 Benefit Rate Increase for Railroad Unemployment and Sickness Benefits
The maximum daily benefit rate payable for claims under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act increases to $66 from $64 in the new benefit year, which begins July 1, 2010. Benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment or sickness over four in 14-day registration periods, so maximum benefits for biweekly claims will total $660. Read More...
July 7, 2010 The Labor Member from the Railroad Retirement Board writes to BMWED President Simpson, announcing his personal retirement. Read Letter...
April 12, 2010 The Railroad Retirement System: Its First Seventy-Five Years. The 75th anniversary of the enactment of the Railroad Retirement Act of 1935 is being observed during 2010. Part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation, the Act was signed into law on August 29, 1935. Read More...
March 15, 2010 Correspondence dated March 15, 2010, from Railroad Retirement Board Labor Member Butch Speakman to BMWED President Simpson, wherein he provides the estimated financial impact of Brother Friend’s proposed changes to the Railroad Retirement Act on the Trust Fund. In a nutshell, the retirement age ain't getting lowered.
December 15, 2009 Correspondence from the General Counsel's office of the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) concerning retirement credits for vacation pay of workers in furlough status. The National Agreement provides furloughed workers the ability to take vacation in one day increments. The RRB states "it is permissible for employees on furlough to decline to take an actual vacation and instead, choose to take vacation pay in one-day increments in different months in order to obtain additional months of credited service." For any questions please contact your RRB District Office.
RRB implementing new toll-free phone service
CHICAGO - The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) announced that it will begin phasing in nationwide toll-free telephone service starting in late November 2008.
A single toll-free number (1-877-772-5772/1-877-RRB-5RRB) will provide RRB customers with easy access to the agency’s field offices.
In addition, the new toll-free number will offer options for self-service through automated menus and automatic routing of calls to claims representatives in nearby offices during emergency and peak periods.
Twelve of the RRB’s 53 field offices will participate in the initial implementation of nationwide toll-free telephone service. The 12 field offices are St. Paul and Duluth, Minn.; Fargo, N.D.; Des Moines, Iowa; Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla.; Atlanta, Ga.; Birmingham, Ala.; Oakland, Sacramento and Covina, Calif.; and Mesa, Ariz. Altogether, these 12 offices serve some 130,000 retired employees, spouses, and survivors and some 50,000 active rail employees.
Nationwide toll-free telephone service will be available in additional RRB field locations after the initial implementation phase has been completed. Until then, RRB customers who reside outside of the service areas covered by these initial 12 offices should continue to use the telephone number for the field office providing service to their area by calling the automated RRB Help Line at 1-800-808-0772 or by looking online at www.rrb.gov.
The new toll-free service is scheduled to be implemented nationwide in all RRB field offices by March 2009.
(This item was distributed by the RRB Nov. 20, 2008.)
The amounts of compensation subject to railroad retirement tier I and tier II payroll taxes will increase in 2009. However, the tier I tax rate on employees and employers remains unchanged. Under the Railroad Retirement and Survivors’ Improvement Act of 2001, tier II tax rates are determined annually by an average account benefits ratio. Based on this ratio, the tier II tax rates on employees and employers will remain at their 2008 level in 2009. Railroad unemployment insurance tax rates paid by employers will continue to include a 1.5 percent surcharge in 2009.....Read More
Following are links to RRB forms, instructions and general information. For specific answers to benefit questions, please contact your RRB District Office.
Railroad Retirement Forms & Information
"An Injury To One Is An Injury To All"
Supplemental Sickness Benefits
Notice of any injury or sickness must be given to Aetna (Broadspire) within 60 days of the start of disability for Supplemental Sickness Benefits. You can do so by calling the toll free number, filing a claim online, or by mailing or faxing your notice of disability form.
Don't be denied Supplemential Sickness benefits because of late filing.
TOLL FREE NUMBER 1-800-205-7651
or file online by going to Aetna's web site at:
|Download Supplemental Sickness Plan booklet
|Download and print Supplemental Sickness Notice of Disability form
|Download Frequently Asked Questions about Supplemental Insurance Benefits
"An Injury To One Is An Injury To All"
|Family Medical Leave
F.M.L.A. (Family Medical Leave Act)
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was signed into law by President Clinton on February 5, 1993 and was subsequently implemented through regulations issued by the Department of Labor. The FMLA is now incorporated in the Code of Federal Regulations as 29 CFR Part 825 (Final Rule, effective February 6, 1995).
The Act is intended to allow employees to balance their work and family life by taking reasonable unpaid leave for medical reasons, for the birth or adoption of a child, or the care of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition. The bill was supported by the BMWE and the entire labor movement.
The law has had far reaching impact both on our agreements and company policies. For example, several companies have unilaterally promulgated so-called "no fault" absenteeism policies that treat any absence by an employee, regardless of reason, as grounds for discipline. However, since FMLA absences are established by law, they cannot be used as a basis to discipline an employee.
Rail Carriers must grant an employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
Frequently asked questions about the Family Medical Leave Act
Amtrak FMLA Employee Handbook
Carriers Abuse of FMLA
The Nation’s four largest railroads, (BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific) had instituted policies that required employees to substitute paid vacation and/or paid personal leave for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The BMWED and TEAMSTER Rail Conference, along with other rail labor organizations challenged these carriers, and in July 2008, it was agreed to arbitrate the issue and question:
Do the Carrier’s policies requiring employees to substitute paid vacation and/or paid personal leave for unpaid FMLA leave violate the requirements of the national vacation and/or national personal leave agreements?
Resulting from this Special Board of Adjustment decision, a three-person arbitration panel reached a unanimous decision that these Carriers, who control a large portion of U.S. intercity rail freight traffic, no longer may require employees to substitute paid vacation and/or paid personal leave for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The arbitration award becomes effective December 16, 2008 at which time the carriers must "immediately discontinue" the invalidated provisions of their FMLA policies. There is also a provision allowing follow-up proceedings to determine a monetary remedy for those who have taken FMLA leave and had to substitute paid vacation or paid personal leave for this time-period.
View Arbitration Award in printable form
"An Injury To One Is An Injury To All"
|Designated Legal Counsel
F.E.L.A. (Federal Employers' Liability Act)
Pennsylvania Federation's Designated Legal Counsel and approved Work Place Accident Lawyers. Call 1-800-666-FELA, or visit them on the web at Keller & Goggin, P.C.
Every year, thousands of railroad employees are injured or killed on the job. When this happens, the railroads retain skilled claim agents and attorneys to protect their interests. They put their legal knowledge to work -- taking photographs, obtaining statements from witnesses, collecting measurements.
These agents and attorneys work for the railroad, not for you. But as a railroad employee, if you are injured on the job, you have powerful rights under the federal law known as the Federal Employers' Liability Act.
The Federal Employers Liability Act was passed by Congress in 1908, for the purpose of providing compensation to railroad employees who are injured on the job. It enables injured employees to bring claims directly against their employers where it can be shown that it was the railroad's negligence that caused the injury.
Negligence is defined as the railroad's failure to exercise reasonable care in its obligation to the employee. It could be as a result of not providing a safe place to work, proper tools and equipment to do the job, or adequate help or training. The courts have held that the employer's negligence does not have to be the sole cause of the accident. So long as the carrier was at fault in the slightest degree it is enough to establish the right to bring a claim.
If the employee was also at fault in causing the accident the jury can reduce his award by the percentage that he was at fault. For example, if the damages totaled $100,000.00 but it was determined that the employee was 25% at fault, the net award would be $75,000.00. Under the FELA the injured employee may file a lawsuit in the state or federal courts and have a jury decide the damages, if any, to which he is entitled. Unless the claim is settled the lawsuit must be filed within three years of the date of the accident.
As distinguished from state workman's compensation laws, there is no schedule of benefits, whether weekly or otherwise to which an employee is entitled. Instead there are elements that determine damages. They include lost wages, pain and suffering, permanency of injury and effect on life style, future pain and suffering, future lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses including medical costs.
Usually the damages under the FELA can be significantly greater than that which would normally be collected if under workmen's compensation. Because the FELA involves bringing a claim directly against the employer, the railroads make every effort to keep the amount they pay out as low as possible.
In order to counter this, and because it is a specialized area of the law, the BMWED has appointed "designated legal counsel" around the country to whom members can go for guidance, advice, and representation. They are all experienced in handling FELA claims.
"An Injury To One Is An Injury To All"
|Amtrak Health Benefits
Benefit Notices for 2015 - including notices regarding Women's Health, HIPPA privacy, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and notices for those who are eligible for Medicare or will become eligible in 2015. View notices here. (1.8mb)
2015 Amtrak Agreement Covered Employee Benefits & Enrollment Guide — If you want to make changes to your benefit elections, you must enroll during the Open Enrollment period: November 10–21, 2014. If you don’t enroll, your current elections will continue. To participate in Flexible Spending Accounts, you must enroll each year.
Opting Out of Coverage
If you have medical coverage from another source (such as coverage through a spouse’s employer), you may opt out of Amtrak medical plan coverage (including prescription drug and mental health/substance abuse benefits). You will remain covered under the dental and vision plans, as long as you meet the eligibility requirement of those plans.
To opt out of medical plan coverage, you will need to provide proof that you have other coverage that includes medical, prescription drug, and mental health/substance abuse benefits.
For questions please contact the Amtrak Benefits Service Center at 800-481-4887. Download and View Amtrak's Benefits Enrollment Guide here, which includes benefit summary pages in addition to important phone numbers(1.9MB)
Planning for your Retirement
2015 Retirement Guides for Amtrak Union workers, Early Retiree Medical Benefits, Medicare, Supplemental Medical Coverage, Dental, Vision, Health Care Spending Account, Life Insurance, Rail Travel Privileges, 401(k) Savings Plan, Phone Numbers and Web Sites, and Frequently Asked Questions.
Retirement Guide (1.4mb)
Retirement Medical Benefits (5.6mb)
Aetna becomes New Service Provider August 28, 2012 — Effective January 1, 2013, Aetna will become the new healthcare provider for Amtrak's agreement covered employees, including our BMWED members. View the Joint Medical Administration Committee's (JMAC) letter advising of this change by following this link.
Surviving Spouse Benefits December 6, 2010 — The BMWED recognized the hardships surviving spouses of deceased Amtrak employees encounter with Amtrak in the period immediately following the employee's death. We took this issue to task and after several months of work have been able to secure a product we feel will serve our member’s families at the most troubling of times. Follow this link for a copy of Amtrak’s Benefit Process for Survivors of Deceased Employees and Deceased Retirees. See also article "Human Resources Offers Help in Time of Grief", page 14 of the Amtrak Ink, March 2011 edition.
New Vision Plan May 26, 2010 — Amtrak announces that effective July 1, 2010 Amtrak agreement employees and their eligible dependents will receive vision care benefits through EyeMed Vision Care. EyeMed is a leading vision benefits company dedicated to improving quality of life through vision wellness. The decision to move to EyeMed was made based on a competitive bid process in which EyeMed excelled. Read More...
Cost Sharing Amount Announced May 21, 2010 — Amtrak workers’ health and welfare contributions (“cost sharing”) will be $177.54 per month starting this July 1st. The monthly contributions are set at 15% of Amtrak’s cost of providing employee health and welfare benefits including AMPLAN, Dental, Vision, AD&D and life insurance coverage. Amtrak workers’ contributions will be slightly lower than those currently paid by freight railroad workers covered by the National Agreement. Calculation of Amtrak’s cost of providing health and welfare benefits is based on the prior year’s actual cost and the employee cost-sharing adjustment is made each July. In contrast, under the freight agreements carrier costs are determined prospectively and the adjustment is made each January.
- Read Amtrak's May 21, 2010 letter here.
- Read the May 25, 2010 letter from JMAC here.
Benefits Handbook for Amtrak Union workers. Our Union negotiates a total benefits package that will help you manage your health, protect your income, and prepare for the future. We’re proud to offer this generous benefits package that compliments your paycheck, especially when many other workers are suffering through cut backs or even having benefits eliminated. Download the booklet for Amtrak’s Agreement-Covered employees, which includes a table illustrating benefit levels for In-Network, Out-of-Network, and Comprehensive Plans. An important reference tool. Download Booklet here.
Amtrak News About Flexible Spending Accounts and Commuter Reimbursement Accounts
As you've reviewed your 2009 open enrollment package, you may have noticed that Amtrak has selected WageWorks as the company's Flexible Spending Account administrator. Amtrak provided employees with a letter outlining WageWorks' capabilities and explaining the transition from SHPS. View a copy of Amtrak's letter here. In addition you can log onto the WageWorks Web site to an audio presentation at www.wageworks.na3.acrobat.com/p12722042/
Amtrak Members’ Cost Sharing Amount for Health & Welfare Announced June 19, 2008—Amtrak workers’ health and welfare contributions (“cost sharing”) will be $165.15 per month starting this July 1. The monthly contributions are set at 15% of Amtrak’s cost of providing employee health and welfare benefits. Amtrak workers’ contributions will be slightly lower than those currently paid by freight railroad workers covered by the National Agreement. Calculation of Amtrak’s cost of providing health and welfare benefits is based on the prior year’s actual cost and the employee cost-sharing adjustment is made each July. In contrast, under the freight agreements carrier costs are determined prospectively and the adjustment is made each January.
Amtrak Benefit Continuation Information for disabled, sick, injured, medically disqualified Agreement Covered Employees. For specific terms of coverage for employees and dependants, visit this link.
Amtrak Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
It is Amtrak's policy to give all employees and their dependents an opportunity for help in recovering from drug and alcohol abuse or emotional problems by providing counseling/crisis support services and professional referrals in a confidential manner through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This program must comply with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations, Control of Alcohol and Drug Use in Railroad Operations, 49CFR, Parts 219 and 240.
Confidentiality is critical to the success of the Employee Assistance Program. An employee is more likely to contact the EAP voluntarily if they believe their privacy will not be violated.
Contact Amtrak's Office of Employee Assistance Programs:
If you live in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, or the District of Columbia
National Railroad Passenger Corporation
900 Second Street, N.E.
Washington DC 20002
If you live in Delaware, Pennsylvania or New Jersey:
National Railroad Passenger Corporation
30th Street Station - Box 68
2955 Market Street
Philadelphia PA 19104
Did you know...
- In 2006 there were over 8,000 D+A tests conducted on Amtrak.
- That of those 8,000, there were 175 positives.
- There were 11 refusals to take test.
- 30% of Amtrak's D+A test were as a result of CDL licenses.
The remaining 70% resulted from other than CDL testing events.
"An Injury To One Is An Injury To All"
|Financial Assistance for Deceased
Financial Assistance Available for Families of Deceased Railway Employees
The John Edgar Thomson Foundation, established in 1882 and endowed by the will of Mr. Thomson, third President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, offers limited financial assistance to daughters of a deceased parent. The parent, regardless of gender, must have been in the employ of any railroad in the United States at the time of death, although the cause need not be work related. Also, the employee must have been considered actively employed by the railroad even though on disability or sick leave at the time of death. Whatever grant is awarded usually serves to benefit all members of the family. Eligibility is dependant upon the daughter and the surviving parent remaining unmarried and meeting certain other criteria.
The monthly allowance made under the grant may cover the period from infancy to age 18; under certain circumstances to age 22, to assist grantees who are pursuing higher educational goals. The Foundation also offers special health care benefits.
The funding of the work of the Foundation is completely independent of any railroad. It neither solicits nor receives funds from the public. Further information and applications may be obtained by writing to:
Sheila Cohen, Director
The John Edgar Thomson Foundation
201 South Eighteenth Street, Suite 318
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
Telephone (215) 545-6083
Fax (215) 545-5102
"An Injury To One Is An Injury To All"
2011 BMWED Scholarship Announcement and Application Packet
|What's At Stake
The Advantage of Union Benefits
WAGES: Our BMWE wages are negotiated, just as members of all unions have the opportunity to improve their working conditions through contract negotiations at the bargaining table. What would the Carriers pay if not for the Union negotiated wage package. Union wages are traditionally higher than our non-union counterparts. Without a Union, all wages, benefits, and working conditions are unilaterally set by the employer. Non-union workers have no avenue for employee input. Management gives the workers what it wants and creates a "take it or leave it" atmosphere.
STRONG SENIORITY SYSTEM: What if there was no seniority system. You've been on the job for 25 years, yet the boss calls his young nephew for overtime. Union Contracts give recognition to time of service and seniority rights. Without a Union, when the nephew works your overtime, you would only have the right to get mad.
A Seniority system is simple way for determining employment advantages based upon length of service. Our BMWE seniority system is instrumental in fairly determining who receives more favorable duty tours, work locations, promotions, and other work opportunities. Seniority also has an influence over bumping rights, which is a re-assignment of jobs, possibly for many people at a time. Our Seniority system has been formulated to avoid unfair 'bumping' in the event of a furlough. Generally Unions are strongly in favor of using seniority as the only criterion for making distinctions among employees. Most BMWE Agreements address seniority first but also take into consideration employee qualifications.
When there is a work reduction, or a reduction in forces that result in furloughs, the preference for those who stay and work is assigned as a function of seniority (first hired = last fired). You stay, the boss's nephew goes. Promotions, transfers, layoffs, training. All are protected by the Union and governed by our contract and a strong seniority system.
SAFETY: Union employees have a real voice regarding safety in the workplace. Safety agreements are negotiated into union contracts and union workers have a seat at labor-management safety committees. Many union employers realize that the input from union workers will result in fewer lost time injuries, higher productivity, and reduced operating costs. Non-union employers may listen to the safety concerns of the employees and then do whatever they choose to do, regardless. Many times the safety of non-union workers is last for consideration.
DUE PROCESS: Our BMWE contracts provides each member with access to "due process" through the grievance and arbitration procedure. We have the right to file and progress claims for compensation against contractual violations. Without a Union there is no formal grievance process with arbitration. In some cases in the non-union workforce, there may be an internal, self-policing "appeals" process that is ultimately unenforceable. Without Union guaranteed rights of due process you could not file claims against the boss's nephew.
CHANGES in WORK RULES: Our negotiated BMWE contracts establish all working conditions, what we refer to as our "work rules". These rules can only be changed by negotiations between the parties. Without a union, work rule changes can be made at any time, without warning, by the employer alone. Big non-union employers force the "Our way or the highway" brand of employee relations.
RIGHTS TO REPRESENTATION: These basic rights allow an employee to have a union representative present during investigatory meetings when discipline may result. No more back office meetings and the intimidation of union workers. No more threats of termination and fear tactics dispensed by the Company bosses. Without a union, no such rights of representation exists. The National Labor Relations Board under the Bush administration insured that non-union workers are denied these basic rights.
DISCIPLINE: Any disciplinary action is usually subject to the "just cause" standard, meaning that there is a burden of proof on the employer to justify the discipline. Union workers have a right to an investigation, and if our BMWE members are suspended from work they are paid pending any investagation. Our BMWE members will receive any and all evidence to be used at their investagation or hearing, and that evidence will be received prior to the investigation. Our BMWE members will know if the company intends to call any witnesses which may testify against our member. Without a Union, workers are "employees at will" meaning that they are subject to discipline and termination for no reason at all, depending on the whims of the employer. A just cause standard does not apply to non-union employees.
ON the JOB INJURY BENEFITS: The Federal Employer's Liability Act (F.E.L.A.) was enacted by Congress in 1908 to provide benefits for railroad workers who sustain injuries on the job. Unlike state Worker's Compensation laws which provide benefits on a no-fault basis, F.E.L.A. is based on the principles of fault. To recover damages in this type of claim, the injured worker must establish that the railroad caused or in some way contributed to the accident. Damages for which an injured worker is entitled to receive under F.E.L.A. are not limited.
Union Difference by the Numbers
A comparison of union jobs versus non-union jobs. Figures compiled by the US Department of Labor
A World Of Difference
Being unionized makes a world of difference in clear and measurable ways. The evidence illustrates that union workers earn more than their non-union counterparts. Union members have better pensions and health care benefits. Union members have better sickness and accident benefits. Union members have contractual protections for safety on the job. Union members have better job security and protections from discretionary actions by the employer. Union members have a voice in their workplace. Union members have access to a grievance and arbitration procedure to challenge contract violations and unfair treatment.
According to recent studies, unions and union workers translate into increased productivity for the employer with better training, less turnover, and longer tenure of the workforce. Our aging BMWE workforce is a prime example. Where else in this nation can you find workers who are as highly skilled and experienced in constructing and maintaining railroad. Where else in this nation can you find workers who stay on the job long after their non-union counterparts have been bounced from job to job to no job at all.
While there are some laws that affect workers' rights, such as minimum wage, OSHA, FMLA and ERISA, these are regarded as the floor in union facilities. That is, the union views these legal rights as the starting point from which to bargain better benefits above and beyond what the laws provide. However, in non-union facilities, these laws are most often the ceiling. In a non-union shop, what you get is all you get. End of story.
The differences between Unions and non-union benefits are dramatic. Furthermore, the benefits of unionization extend well beyond those of simple self-interest. Union contracts and benefits make a difference in the lives of our members, and make a difference in the non-union sector by helping to keep all wages elevated. Unions lobby our nation's legislators for protections and securities in our workforce. Unions use their power and strength to organize demonstrations and protests against factions that would reduce benefits for the worker. Non-union workers reap the benefits of the Union's efforts.There is a measurable benefit for labor and management when workers have a real and legitimate voice in the workplace.
"An Injury To One Is An Injury To All"
Next to a scab, a snitch or an informer is one of the lowest forms of humanity. All we have is our ability to stick together. Statements given to railroad management and their agents will only be used against you. Management is not interested in the truth and is only interested in protecting their money at our expense. Be careful what you say and never volunteer any information.
Remember, nobody likes a snitch. No one can say you saw something that you did not see. This includes but is not limited to injuries, investigations and accidents of all kinds.
Page Last Updated: Apr 20, 2015 (15:13:00)