The investigations into possible disability benefits fraud by career LIRR employees continues on to this very day. The New York Times which broke the original story continues to keep track as events unfold. The latest piece was written by Walt Bogdanich (with contributed reporting by Nicholas Phillips, Duff Wilson, & Andrew W. Lehren) & looks into how doctors made it easy for employees to claim disability:
In the years before the investigators arrived, the Long Island office of the Railroad Retirement Board had been a beacon to employees of the Long Island Rail Road, offering the prospect of a comfortable retirement, complete with a pension and disability payments — all at an age when people in other industries were still working.
As word spread that disability payments were easy to get, L.I.R.R. workers trooped up to the office, hundreds at first and eventually thousands, all filing papers to begin the process of securing early retirement on disability.
Now, the retirement board’s Long Island office, in Westbury, is attracting attention for another reason: It is the epicenter of major state and federal investigations into the legitimacy of many of those disability awards.
Of particular interest to investigators is a small group of disability consultants and physicians who have helped the L.I.R.R. attain the dubious distinction of having the nation’s highest rate of disabled retirees even while it was earning awards for employee safety. The New York Times reported in September that nearly all of the railroad’s career employees retire early and file for disability.
One consultant, Marie T. Baran, ran the board’s Long Island office until she quit two years ago and began selling advice to rail workers on how to navigate the system of which she had been a part. Other disability advisers are prominent former union leaders, including one who once represented labor on the board of the L.I.R.R.’s parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Government investigators are particularly interested in learning why L.I.R.R. retirees tend to use the same physicians, while citing the same ailments in numbers far out of line with other railroads. Investigators have issued dozens of subpoenas to consultants, doctors and retirees, among others.
Click here for the complete report.
The overall percentage of fraud boggles my mind. What does so even more is the thought process that this is being blown out of proportion & no fraud is taking place. This rhetoric was recently shared with me by a LIRR employee I know. I looked this individual in the face & just laughed at how ridiculous they sounded. I asked them who were they trying to convince with that rhetoric. The number of claims compared to the average are completely out of whack & just scream fraud. How can anyone not see that when looking at the facts?
Lets throw out other railroad agencies in the U.S. & focus on the comparison between the Long Island Rail Road & Metro-North. The two agencies have very similar operations yet the number of claims vary greatly. I don’t for one second believe that is a coincidence. I seriously hope that anyone who committed fraud is prosecuted & all parties involved work to crackdown on future fraud attempts!
xoxo Transit Blogger