Widows Initial Minimum Amount (WIMA)
In 2001 The Railroad Retirement Board amended the Survivor’s Improvement Act. The controversial piece of legislation is known as the Widow’s Initial Minimum Amount (WIMA). Here is a description of this section of legislation initially written in a newsletter by Tom Dwyer.
The newsletter reads, “The Widows Initial Minimum Amount is part of the law that was effective February 1, 2002, that increased a widow’s Tier 2 from 50% to 100 % of her husband’s Tier 2. The catch with WIMA is that a widow is not eligible for a Cost-of-Living Adjustment for approximately 6-7 years from the Annuity Beginning Date. A Cost -of -Living Adjustment will only occur when the sum of the yearly COLA’s applied to the original pre-WIMA 50% Tier 2 and Tier 1 equals the new WIMA’s 100% Tier 1 and Tier 2. When these two amounts are equal, COLA’s will be applied to the Widow’s annuity.”
As an example, there was a case when the law was first enacted in 2002. A railroad employee with full benefits passed away. This employee’s spouse, now a widow, was directly affected by the new Widow’s Initial Minimum Amount law. The widow’s monthly net annuity in 2005 was $1488.92 per month. Then in 2006 her monthly annuity became $1478.62. That is a difference of $10.30. the reason for the decrease in her monthly net is because of the increase in her Medicare premium, which went from $78.20 in 2005 to $88.50 in 2006.
The widow will be eligible for a partial Cost-of-Living Adjustment in 2007. There is simply a difference of $6.48 between the pre WIMA 50% Tier 2 and Tier 1. With the applied COLA’s thru 2006 and the 100% WIMA amount plus the Tier 1. If next year has a 3% percent on Tier 1 that will create $43.53 on the difference between her pre-WIMA 50% Tier 2 with COLA’s and her WIMA with 100% Tier 2.
If you are a widow receiving railroad retirement survivor benefits with no COLA being applied you need to call the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772. The Retirement Board can let you know when you will be eligible for a Cost-of Living benefit increase.
However, if you had a reduction in your monthly net annuity and you are not getting COLA’s it is because of the Medicare increase that went from $148.00 to $170.10 per month. Medicare requires the Railroad Retirement Board to make that deduction.
Are you a member of the National Association of Railroad Veteran and Retired Employees (NARVRE)? If not, you should consider joining today. We work diligently to keep you informed of any changes to your retirement benefits and have legislators in Washington D.C.. This is a fight to maintain your benefits. It is less than a dollar a day to become a member. You can find us on Facebook or speak to your local affiliate for information on joining. You will be glad you became a member. Our members find our information helpful, and they have peace of mind knowing that we will fight for your benefits.
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