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CHICAGO-Retired railroad workers who return to railroad work will temporarily lose their pension benefits, according to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.

Pension benefits are not payable for any month that a retired employee works for a railroad employer, even if the retiree works as little as one day that month.

In addition, spouses' annuities are not payable by the board for any month the retired employee is not eligible for an annuity-due to a return to work-or for any month in which the spouse works for a railroad employer.

The Railroad Retirement Board, which is based in Chicago, issued its notice, 97-4, in the wake of requests by retired railroad employees for information on what effect a temporary or part-time return to railroad work would have on their annuities.

Some railroads previously cut their workforces too much and now cannot meet a surge of business.

As of June, 746,000 retired railroad employees, spouses and survivors were collecting monthly annuities in the program administered by the board. When new cost-of-living increases kick in next January, the average monthly benefit paid to retirees will be $1,259.

In addition, the average combined benefits for a retired employee and spouse will increase to $1,837 per month and the average monthly survivor annuity will rise to $754.