BLET WISLB Information
U.S. Railroad Retirement Board
Public Affairs 312-751-4777 877-772-5772
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2092 rrb.gov
According to Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) policy, every annuitant has the right to manage his or her own benefits. However, when physical or mental impairments make a railroad retirement annuitant incapable of properly handling benefit payments, or where the RRB determines that the interests of the annuitant so require, the agency can appoint a representative payee to act on the annuitant’s behalf. A representative payee may be either a person or an organization selected by the RRB to receive benefits on behalf of an annuitant.
The following questions and answers provide information for family members, or others, who may have to act on behalf of an annuitant.
The Railroad Retirement Act gives the RRB authority to determine whether direct payment of benefits, or payment to a representative payee, will best serve an annuitant’s interest. The RRB can appoint a representative payee regardless of whether there has been a legal finding of incompetence or commitment and, depending on the circumstances in a particular case, the RRB can select someone other than the individual’s legal representative to be the representative payee.
Power of attorney is a legal process where one person grants another the authority to transact certain business on his or her behalf; but the RRB, like the Social Security Administration, does not recognize power of attorney for purposes of managing benefit payments for a beneficiary. For this purpose, the RRB uses the position of representative payee.
The Railroad Retirement Act protects a person’s right to receive benefits directly and to use them as he or she sees fit by prohibiting the assignment of benefits. Power of attorney creates an assignment-like situation that is contrary to the protections given by this law. The Act likewise gives the RRB exclusive jurisdiction in determining whether to appoint a representative payee for an annuitant. If the RRB recognized power of attorney, it would be deferring to a designation made by someone outside of the agency and would, in effect, be abdicating its responsibility to the annuitant.
Also, events often occur which may affect an annuitant’s eligibility for benefits. The responsibility for reporting these events to the RRB is placed, by law, directly on the annuitant or the annuitant’s representative payee. When benefits are accepted, the annuitant or his or her payee attests to a continued eligibility for such benefits. And if payments are misused, they can be recouped from the payee. This is not true with power of attorney.
Generally, the RRB’s local field offices determine the need for a representative payee and interview potential payees. The field office also advises the payee of his or her duties, monitors the payee, investigates any allegations of misuse of funds, and changes the method of payment, or the payee, when appropriate.
The RRB provides 15 days’ advance notice to an annuitant of its intent to appoint a representative payee, and the name of the payee, in order to allow the annuitant a period of time in which to contest the appointment.
The payee must give first consideration to the annuitant’s day-to-day needs. This includes paying for food, shelter, clothing, medical care and miscellaneous personal needs. Beyond day-to-day needs, railroad retirement benefits may be used for other expenses.
The payee is also responsible for reporting events to the RRB that affect the individual’s annuity, and is required to account for the funds received on behalf of the annuitant.
In addition, since railroad retirement benefits are subject to Federal income tax, a representative payee is responsible for delivering the benefit information statements issued each year by the RRB to the person handling the annuitant’s tax matters.
Periodically, the payee will be asked to complete a report which includes questions regarding how much of the railroad retirement benefits available during the year were used for the support of the beneficiary, how much of the benefits were saved, and how the savings were invested. In order to complete the questionnaire correctly, a payee must keep current records of the railroad retirement benefits received and how the benefits were used. The records should be retained for four years.
When an annuitant requires covered medical services, the payee must have the annuitant’s Medicare card available. The payee must also keep records of the services received and the expenses incurred or paid, just as for any other usage of railroad retirement benefits.
When annuitants are in a nursing home, hospital or other institution, their railroad retirement benefit payments should be used to meet the charges for their current maintenance. Current maintenance includes the usual charges the institution makes for providing care and services.
The payee should use the benefit payments to aid in the annuitant’s possible recovery or release from the institution, or to improve his or her living conditions while confined. Payments may be used, for example, to provide clothing, personal grooming supplies, transportation of relatives to visit the patient, trial visits to relatives or to places where the patient can be helped to recover, medical and dental care, and reading materials and hobby supplies.
Benefit payments which will not be needed in the near future must be saved or invested unless they are needed for the support of the annuitant’s legally dependent spouse or child, or to pay creditors under certain circumstances. It is recommended that conserved funds be held in interest-bearing accounts. Preferred investments are Federally-insured or State-insured accounts at financial institutions and obligations of, or those backed by, the Federal Government, such as U.S. Savings Bonds.
Funds should not be kept in the home, where they may be lost or stolen, nor can they be mingled with the payee’s own funds or other funds.
More information is available by visiting the agency’s website, www.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 RRB’s toll-free number or at www.rrb.gov.
“The problem is that they come back into my mind in vivid detail,” Davids says
Gruesome death and injury are part of the job, but engineers have a front-row seat. Some engineers and conductors are lucky—they may see only one or two accidents in their career. Others who are involved in multiple accidents are known as having “the curse,” though many in the industry consider it mere coincidence. And for some conductors, accidents are so violent and traumatic they can lead to extended leaves of absence, depression, stress disorders, and even leaving the industry.
It’s not so much a matter of if an accident will happen, but when—and the problem is getting worse. Every three hours or so, a person or vehicle is hit by a train in the United States. In 2013, highway-rail incidents and trespassing fatalities increased compared to the past three years, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. “It’s a small percentage, but it’s an increase and it’s in the wrong direction,” says Joyce Rose, president of Operation Lifesaver, a 42-year-old national organization dedicated to informing the public about train safety. “We’ve seen a 14 percent increase in trespass fatalities just last year,” she adds.
One headline-grabbing incident happened last month when a Maryville, Calif., teenage couple, who were on their way to the local Sadie Hawkins dance, were caught off-guard by an approaching train. The boyfriend pushed his date out of the way and saved her life, but he was killed at the scene. This is just one of hundreds of deaths that occur on train tracks in the United States every year. And for the train engineer or conductor, the worst is just beginning.
This recent uptick in accidents is the reason behind Operation Lifesaver’s “See Tracks. Think Trains” campaign, which launched April 8. This four-word slogan will echo on televisions, billboards, radios, and by the thousands of presentations by Operation Lifesaver almost 1500 members. Of those volunteers, nearly half are retired railroad workers, Rose says.
About 80 percent of fatalities are male with the lion’s share falling within the 16-34 age group, It’s this group that the “See Tracks. Think Trains” campaign hopes to reach. Distraction is a huge concern. A proliferation of smartphones, headphones, GPS devices, are at least one cause of the inclining death toll, not to mention increased population and railway traffic.
However, Rose thinks there’s a more pervasive, underlying problem. “People don’t think that they’re doing anything wrong when they walk on the railroad tracks,” Rose says. “It’s a criminal act to trespass on railroad tracks, but that psychology is not there and it’s a difficult audience to reach in a methodical way…I’m sure people are not thinking when they try to race the train at a crossing at how selfish that is and the impact that it can cause on other people, especially the engineer of the train.”
When a train hits someone or something on the tracks, Davids says, the first thing the crew does is record the time and call the train dispatcher to report an incident. Dispatch then alerts emergency responders while the train crew runs back to the point of collision to see if they can help. Davids took first aid classes for that very reason, even though there’s often nothing he can do. Then the long process of investigating the accident begins.
In the aftermath of a train accident, Davids says, news reports understandably focus on the civilian victims. But a major train accident such as a derailment can send trains careening into ditches or shrapnel ripping through a locomotive’s windshield. “About 90 percent of the time when a railroad incident is reported, they never mention if the train crew is ok,” Davids says. “The reporters are only thinking of half the equation.”
That could be said of the train companies, too. Up until the 1970s or the 80s, many companies expected railroad workers to clean up the mess after a collision and keep working, regardless of any nerves or psychological trauma.
“Initially when I was involved in a fatality, I couldn’t believe there was no assistance,” says John Tolman, vice president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, who started his railroading career in 1971. “Now, we’re moving in the right direction after many years of delay.” In 2008, Congress passed the Railway Safety Improvement Act. The law pushed for positive train control to curtail operator error, but also had a provision that required train companies to provide adequate time off and counseling services to anyone involved in a “critical incident.”
Now, Davids says, by law the train crew is relieved from duty after an accident, given time off, and offered counseling services or the option to speak with other railroad employees who’ve experienced similar accidents, known simply as peer support. Many times employees are absent for a few days, sometimes longer, and some never return at all.
Patrick Sherry, a professor of psychology at the University of Denver, has studied the mental health of railroad employees involved in critical incidents. Sherry stumbled upon the subject in 1988 when a man entered his office interested in psychology and explaining how railroad workers were experiencing “anniversary accidents.”
“Every April, several people in a certain workforce of engineers…would have an accident—whether back pain or something else—that would trigger getting time off,” Sherry says. He traveled down to the workplace to interview the engineers and listened to their stories: “I was talking to this one guy and he said ‘I once ran into a minivan, we were coming down the tracks and there was nothing I could do. I had the brakes on full emergency. I’m blowing the horn and blowing the horn, and I can see this minivan. We’re getting closer and closer. We got so close I could see the little kids’ faces against the windows of the cars. There’s nothing I could do. We plowed right into them.’”
Sherry explains that this particular engineer could never get the image out of his head. It was so bad in fact, that the engineer would do anything to not work that day. “I found that many of them have had similar experiences,” Sherry says. “Absenteeism is often associated the post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Sherry’s 54-page report, issued in 2011, uncovered some harrowing numbers. Nearly half (43.6 percent) of all rail transit operators are likely to be involved in an accident at some point, and of that unlucky population, 12.1 percent experienced PTSD. Train crews involved in incidents were also more likely to report physical health difficulties.
“Familiar stimuli can trigger those memories,” Sherry says. He then describes one engineer who frequently had to pass the trackside memorial of a victim killed in a train accident he was involved in. “It makes it harder for a person to overcome and/or suppress those memories if the person is continually re-exposed to the stimuli. The body is saying to go someplace else and forget this, but if your job is to travel over the same places again and again, it can be very painful.”
Train accidents are over in a few seconds. But court cases and deposition hearings can linger for years, forcing engineers and conductors to relive their nightmares. Davids has participated in two such hearings, one in which a prosecutor tried to prove negligence, though the case was dismissed. Davids says the accusations aren’t even the hardest part.
“Details are brought out in a courthouse that we don’t know,” he says. “At one of the depositions, they start talking about the lady’s baby, and she was getting married a week after the incident happened.” Years later while giving a driver’s education presentation for Operation Lifesavers, Davids met that woman’s daughter. “I talked to her after the presentation and she said she didn’t remember her mom, and that she was raised by her grandparents,” Davids says. “Those are the things I don’t want to know.”
Davids joined Operation Lifesavers in 1984. He now serves as the state coordinator for Idaho, the state where the Operation Lifesavers started in 1972. In some ways, the new campaign is fighting the stubbornness of human nature. People are always focused on where they’re going, but not where they are, Davids says. People need to slow down, and they need to think, he says—“because anytime is train time.”
This article, from the Houston Chronicle, appeared on the web at the link below if you want to share. It makes a lot of sense. Also, I want you to know that Texas is not a republican state, it’s a non-voting state. We are working to change that fact. In this election Greg Abbott was elected governor with 59% of the votes. But his vote total is only 19% of the 14 million voters in the state! Hardly a mandate.
We must stay the course and hang on for two years.
The missing story of the 2014 election
Posted on November 10, 2014 | By chrisladd
Few things are as dangerous to a long term strategy as a short-term victory. Republicans this week scored the kind of win that sets one up for spectacular, catastrophic failure and no one is talking about it.
What emerges from the numbers is the continuation of a trend that has been in place for almost two decades. Once again, Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level across the most heavily populated sections of the country while intensifying their hold on a declining electoral bloc of aging, white, rural voters. The 2014 election not only continued that doomed pattern, it doubled down on it. As a result, it became apparent from the numbers last week that no Republican candidate has a credible shot at the White House in 2016, and the chance of the GOP holding the Senate for longer than two years is precisely zero.
For Republicans looking for ways that the party can once again take the lead in building a nationally relevant governing agenda, the 2014 election is a prelude to a disaster. Understanding this trend begins with a stark graphic.
Behold the Blue Wall:
The Blue Wall is block of states that no Republican Presidential candidate can realistically hope to win. Tuesday that block finally extended to New Hampshire, meaning that at the outset of any Presidential campaign, a minimally effective Democratic candidate can expect to win 257 electoral votes without even trying. That’s 257 out of the 270 needed to win.
Arguably Virginia now sits behind that wall as well. Democrats won the Senate seat there without campaigning in a year when hardly anyone but Republicans showed up to vote and the GOP enjoyed its largest wave in modern history. Virginia would take that tally to 270. Again, that’s 270 out of 270.
This means that the next Presidential election, and all subsequent ones until a future party realignment, will be decided in the Democratic primary. Only by sweeping all nine of the states that remain in contention AND also flipping one impossibly Democratic state can a Republican candidate win the White House. What are the odds that a Republican candidate capable of passing muster with 2016 GOP primary voters can accomplish that feat? You do the math.
By contrast, Republicans control a far more modest Red Fortress, which currently amounts to 149 electoral votes. What happened to that fortress amid the glory of the 2014 “victory?” It shrunk yet again. Not only are New Hampshire and probably Virginia now off the competitive map, Georgia is now clearly in play at the Federal level. This trend did not start in 2014 and it will not end here. This is a long-term realignment that been in motion for more than a decade and continues to accelerate.
The biggest Republican victory in decades did not move the map. The Republican party’s geographic and demographic isolation from the rest of American actually got worse.
A few other items of interest from the 2014 election results:
– Republican Senate candidates lost every single race behind the Blue Wall. Every one.
– Behind the Blue Wall there were some new Republican Governors, but their success was very specific and did not translate down the ballot. None of these candidates ran on social issues, Obama, or opposition the ACA. Rauner stands out as a particular bright spot in Illinois, but Democrats in Illinois retained their supermajority in the State Assembly, similar to other northern states, without losing a single seat.
– Republicans in 2014 were the most popular girl at a party no one attended. Voter turnout was awful.
– Democrats have consolidated their power behind the sections of the country that generate the overwhelming bulk of America’s wealth outside the energy industry. That’s only ironic if you buy into far-right propaganda, but it’s interesting none the less.
– Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last. Eventually Democrats will help people get the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new requirements. The whole “voter integrity” sham may have given Republicans a one or maybe two-election boost in low-turnout races. Meanwhile we kissed off minority votes for the foreseeable future.
– Across the country, every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.
– Every personhood amendment failed.
– For only the second time in fifty years Nebraska is sending a Democrat to Congress. Former Republican, Brad Ashford, defeated one of the GOP’s most stubborn climate deniers to take the seat.
– Almost half of the Republican Congressional delegation now comes from the former Confederacy. Total coincidence, just pointing that out.
– In Congress, there are no more white Democrats from the South. The long flight of the Dixiecrats has concluded.
– Democrats in 2014 were up against a particularly tough climate because they had to defend 13 Senate seats in red or purple states. In 2016 Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats and at least 18 of them are likely to be competitive based on geography and demographics. Democrats will be defending precisely one seat that could possibly be competitive. One.
– And that “Republican wave?” In Congressional elections this year it amounted to a total of 52% of the vote. That’s it.
– Republican support grew deeper in 2014, not broader. For example, new Texas Governor Greg Abbott won a whopping victory in the Republic of Baptistan. That’s great, but that’s a race no one ever thought would be competitive and hardly anyone showed up to vote in. Texas not only had the lowest voter turnout in the country (less than 30%), a position it has consistently held across decades, but that electorate is more militantly out of step with every national trend then any other major Republican bloc. Texas now holds a tenth of the GOP majority in the House.
– Keep an eye on oil prices. Texas, which is at the core of GOP dysfunction, is a petro-state with an economy roughly as diverse and modern as Nigeria, Iran or Venezuela. It was been relatively untouched by the economic collapse because it is relatively dislocated from the US economy in general. Watch what happens if the decline in oil prices lasts more than a year.
– For all the talk about economic problems, for the past year the US economy has been running at ’90’s levels. Watch Republicans start touting a booming economy as the result of their 2014 “mandate.”
– McConnell’s conciliatory statements are encouraging, but he’s about to discover that he cannot persuade Republican Senators and Congressmen to cooperate on anything constructive. We’re about to get two years of intense, horrifying stupidity. If you thought Benghazi was a legitimate scandal that reveals Obama’s real plans for America then you’re an idiot, but these next two years will be a (briefly) happy period for you.
This is an age built for Republican solutions. The global economy is undergoing a massive, accelerating transformation that promises massive new wealth and staggering challenges. We need heads-up, intelligent adaptations to capitalize on those challenges. Republicans, with their traditional leadership on commercial issues should be at the leading edge of planning to capitalize on this emerging environment.
What are we getting from Republicans? Climate denial, theocracy, thinly veiled racism, paranoia, and Benghazi hearings. Lots and lots of hearings on Benghazi.
It is almost too late for Republicans to participate in shaping the next wave of our economic and political transformation. The opportunities we inherited coming out of the Reagan Era are blinking out of existence one by one while we chase so-called “issues” so stupid, so blindingly disconnected from our emerging needs that our grandchildren will look back on our performance in much the same way that we see the failures of the generation that fought desegregation.
Something, some force, some gathering of sane, rational, authentically concerned human beings generally at peace with reality must emerge in the next four to six years from the right, or our opportunity will be lost for a long generation. Needless to say, Greg Abbott and Jodi Ernst are not that force.
“Winning” this election did not help that force emerge. This was a dark week for Republicans, and for everyone who wants to see America remain the world’s most vibrant, most powerful nation.
Terry Briggs, Chairman
IBT – BLET
Texas State Legislative Board
Official Q&As Published Today
Today – July 3, 2014 – the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance, with the Office of General Counsel, issued 49 CFR Part 40 Question and Answers (Q&A). Like all ODAPC/OGC Q&As, these Q&As constitute official and authoritative guidance and interpretation concerning Part 40. The Q&As issued today are available at http://www.dot.gov/odapc/part40QandA. The Q&As explain 1) When may a collector give an employee permission to leave a collection site, and 2) What happens if an employee leaves the collection site prior to the completion of the testing process.
Revised Urine Specimen Collector Guidelines Posted Today
The following are some of the changes to the revised Urine Specimen Collector Guidelines from the previous version [October 1, 2010]:
The revised Guidelines are available at http://www.dot.gov/odapc/urine-specimen-collection-guidelines.
|Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest|
|Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest|