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After two years of planning, SMART-TD Illinois conducts first ever training class for Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) disability examiners, call it Conductor 101

Chicago (November 13)— What is a knuckle and pin lifter? What is a retarder, a grip, a deadhead? For railroaders, these terms roll off the tongue on almost a daily basis. For a RRB disability examiner they’re an unknown entity.

That’s why it was so important for SMART-TD Illinois to participate last week in the first-of-its-kind training for RRB disability examiners to illustrate what a conductor’s job duties really are. Especially since it’s the disability examiner’s job to review SMART-TD members applications when, as a last resort, they apply for an occupational disability annuity.

“The occupational disability benefit within Railroad Retirement is one of the many benefits that makes our pension system special,” said SMART-TD Illinois State Director Robert W. Guy.

“That’s why we need to fight to protect it from those who would like to do away with or diminish it,” Guy said. “And training the individuals who determine the eligibility of our members is part of that fight, and one that we were proud to conduct.”

Training for the examiners was done over the course of two consecutive days and included a classroom style presentation on Day 1, with field training at the Belt Railway Company (BRC) in Chicago on Day 2.

Along with State Director Guy, Illinois Asst. Director Joe Ciemny and Board Chairman John O’Brien conducted the classroom training with a detailed power point presentation that illustrated the wide range of physical activities and tasks that make up a duty tour of a conductor, both freight and passenger.

Describing the demands of the job in the 24/7 railroad environment that includes working in all kinds of extreme conditions while walking on uneven surfaces and next to heavy rolling equipment was very enlightening for the examiners.

“Joe and John did a wonderful job in explaining why the safety critical nature of our industry demands workers to be 100% physically,” Guy said. “And when, after a career spent in these conditions, a worker is less than 100% why the occupational disability benefit is necessary as a last resort for those workers who can’t physically perform their work any longer.”

After two days of training and being able to interact with actual equipment the disability examiners now have a healthy respect for what SMART-TD members do.

“You could tell by the feedback from the examiners that they now understand the challenges that we face,” Guy said. “Then on Day 2 to see their faces while they got to see a switch crew in action, and walk through a locomotive and handle a knuckle and just see the sheer size of the equipment we work on and around, it reinforced for us why this was so important.”

“On behalf of Joe and John and all SMART-TD members, I want to say what an honor it was to create and participate in this training,” Guy said. “I want to also thank President Previsich for entrusting us to represent SMART-TD members nationwide.”

“After the training the RRB Labor member, Walt Barrows, expressed his personal gratitude for the work we did for this project,” Guy said. “And like us, he looks forward to more training in the years to come.”

Asst. Director Joe Ciemny and Chairman John O'Brien conduct classroom style training to RRB disability examiners.

Joe Ciemny, John O'Brien and Bob Guy attend Day 2 field training at BRC in Chicago.

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