For Attorneys and Mediators:
Metro North employees may have two pensions: The MTA (aka Metro North) Pension and Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits.
- Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)
- Plan Components: The RRB has two components: Tier I, which is the functional equivalent of Social Security and cannot be divided by court order, and Non-Tier I, which is made up of Tier II and, sometimes, a small supplemental benefit. For simplicity’s sake, the Non-Tier I will be referred to as Tier II.
- Tier II benefits assigned by court order will be paid for the life of the former spouse unless the court orders that they terminate sooner.
- Offset for MTA Pension
- Payments from the MTA pension will be offset, dollar for dollar, by payments from the RRB Tier II benefits, to the extent the RRB Tier II benefits were earned through MTA employment.
- If the employee worked only for MTA, and is entitled to $1500/month from the Metro North Defined Benefit pension plan, and $500/ month from the RRB Tier II pension, he will get $1,000/month from the MTA, and $500/ month from the RRB Tier II.
- Because of this offset, it is recommended that the same formula be used for each plan.
- MTA: Defined Benefit Pension Plan
- The MTA pension will only be made for the MTA employee’s lifetime unless the employee is ordered to elect a survivor benefit for the former spouse.
- The MTA survivor options are either a lifetime survivor annuity or a guaranteed payment term.
- The survivor annuity is payable for the life of the named survivor, and is based the entire pension earned thorough the date of retirement, prior to reduction for any amount assigned by QDRO. The employee cannot provide a survivor annuity to more than one person. The award of survivor benefits might not be appropriate.
- Possible survivor options are a 25% survivor annuity; 50% survivor annuity, 75% survivor annuity and 100% survivor annuity The guaranteed periods are a life annuity (payable for employee’s life) with a minimum period of 5 years or 10 years, meaning the employee will receive an annuity for his lifetime, but if he dies in less than the elected guaranteed period (5 or 10 years), payments will be made to his named beneficiary for the remainder of the guaranteed period. If the employee is remarried when he retires, his current spouse would have to waive survivor benefits for him to be able to provide survivor benefits to a former spouse.
- The assignment of a survivor annuity is not always appropriate. The percentage is based on the total pension earned through the date of retirement, meaning benefits earned after the divorce will be included. The pension will be reduced to provide the survivor benefit. If a survivor annuity is assigned, the employee will not be able to provide a survivor annuity to anyone else.
Revised September 2022