Doctors Made It Easy For Retired LIRR Employees To Claim Disability

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

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NYC Transit To Distribute Rider Report Cards On The M

Once again I apologize for not getting this press release up sooner. Yesterday afternoon, MTA’s New York City Transit issued a press release to announce the distribution of the 2008 Rider Report Cards on the M Train. Here are the complete details:

In our continuing effort to solicit feedback from our customers, MTA New York City Transit is again distributing Rider Report Cards throughout the system. Riders on the M are next in line of NYC Transit’s over five million daily subway customers asked to rate the progress of their line since the initial round of report cards was distributed in July 2007.

The report cards are being distributed to riders during the morning rush hours from Wednesday through Friday, October 29th – 31st. The cards will be handed out at several different stations along the line each day over the three days. Grades will be used to identify rider preferences and to gauge how much improvement customers along the M line have noticed since last year’s report card.

Again, the Rider Report Card will ask subway riders to grade 21 specific areas of service from an A (Excellent) to an F (Unsatisfactory). Among the areas riders will grade include: car and station cleanliness, safety, security, quality of announcements, and the courtesy and helpfulness of front line customer service staff. Riders will also assign an overall grade for M line service. From this list of 21 service attributes, riders are also going to be asked to rank the top three improvements they would like to see made to this line.

The Rider Report Card is once again being distributed in a mailer format, designed to be returned at no cost to the rider. Customers will also have the option of completing the survey on-line, on the MTA website at www.mta.info, where it will be available in 3 languages: English, Spanish and Chinese. From the time the survey begins, riders will have two weeks to mail in their response or to complete the survey online.

Rider Report Card results are posted on line for riders to review once they have been tabulated.

Report cards are being distributed between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. at each station. The schedule for distribution of Rider Report Cards along the M line is as follows:

• Wednesday, October 29th – Bay Parkway, 20th Avenue, 18th Avenue, 79th Street, 71st Street, 62nd Street, 55th Street, 50th Street, Ft. Hamilton Parkway, 9th Avenue, 36th Street and 25th Street.

• Thursday, October 30th – Prospect Avenue, 4th Avenue-9th Street, Union Street, Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street, DeKalb Avenue and Lawrence Street.

• Friday, October 31st – Hewes Street, Lorimer Street, Flushing Avenue, Myrtle Avenue, Central Avenue, Knickerbocker Avenue, Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues, Seneca Avenue, Forest Avenue, Fresh Pond Road and Middle Village-Metropolitan Avenue.

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Buses To Replace Midday Montauk Branch Trains

Let me first apologize for not posting this press release sooner. The LIRR sent out a press release yesterday to announce that buses would replace midday Montauk Branch trains. The replacement is in place so they can use the Sperry Rail Car to conduct special rail tests. Here are the complete details:

The MTA Long Island Rail Road will provide bus service in place of midday, weekday trains on the Montauk Branch east of Patchogue November 6 through November 7, in order to use the Sperry Rail Car to conduct special rail tests. The inspections will be conducted by the Sperry Rail Car, a bright yellow vehicle fitted with ultrasonic and induction test equipment, designed to detect internal rail defects not readily visible to the eye. Defects that are found will be corrected immediately by a crew of LIRR track maintenance workers. The Sperry Rail Car is used twice a year to inspect approximately 500 miles of LIRR track.

Thursday, November 6:

Track will be inspected between Patchogue and Montauk. Train service will be replaced by buses between 8 AM and 5 PM.

Eastbound:

Customers will board buses at Patchogue to complete their trips. Travel time will be increased by up to 44 minutes.

Westbound:

Customers east of Patchogue will board buses at their stations then transfer to trains at Babylon to complete their trips. Travel time will be increased by up to 51 minutes.

Friday, November 7:

Track will be inspected between Speonk and Montauk. Train service will be replaced by buses between 6:49 AM and 5 PM.

Eastbound:

Customers will board buses at Speonk to complete their trips. Travel time will be increased by up to 31 minutes.

Westbound:

Customers east of Speonk will board buses at their stations and transfer to trains at Babylon to complete their trips. Travel time will be increased by up to 51 minutes.

For travel information, customers can contact the LIRR’s Travel Information Center, 24-hours a day, in Suffolk County at 631-231-LIRR, in Nassau County at 516-822-LIRR, or in New York City at 718-217-LIRR. The Travel Information Center’s TDD telephone number for the hearing impaired is 718-558-3022. Customers can also consult the LIRR’s website at www.mta.info.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Smith-9th Street Rehab Pushed Back & Will Cost More!

Coney Island/Stillwell Ave. bound F train entering the Smith-9th Sts. station on the F & GConey Island/Stillwell Ave. bound F train entering the Smith-9th Sts. station on the F Train & G Train. Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit.

This Sunday will be a year to the day that I wrote about the MTA’s plans to close the Smith-9th Street station/terminal on the F Train & G Train. The closure was apart of the planned repairs to the Culver Viaduct. As we know by now, that project has faced major concerns due to a lack of funds which is nothing new for big ticket construction projects or the MTA as a whole. However this past Wednesday, Brooklyn riders were hit with more bad news. Not only will the closure of the station & its rehab be pushed back, it will also cost much more money than anticipated. Mike McLaughlin of The Brooklyn Paper has more on this unsurprising turn of events:

It’s the same F-ing story at the crumbling Smith-Ninth Street station: repairs are going to cost more — much more — and take much longer.

As recently as June, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it would spend $187.8 million to rebuild the elevated F and G tracks from Carroll Street to Fourth Avenue, and renovate the aging Smith-Ninth street station.
Brooklyn Bridge Realty

But on Wednesday, MTA spokeswoman Deirdre Parker told The Brooklyn Paper that the work would cost “upwards of a quarter-billion dollars.”

The track work on the so-called Culver Viaduct is still scheduled to begin early next year and finish in 2012.

But the renovation of the decrepit Smith-Ninth street stop — which requires closing the station for ninth months — has been pushed back to 2011 from 2010.

Click here for the complete article.

Seriously does this come as a surprise to anyone reading this blog? I know it doesn’t surprise me. We all know the dire financial straits the MTA is in so hearing about projects being pushed back & eventually costing more should come as no surprise. Unfortunately with the history of the MTA being on the short end of the stick funding wise coupled with a crippling economy, these announcements will soon become the norm which is bad news for our infrastructure. Only if we could pinch ourselves awake to put an end to these nightmares.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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NYC Transit Hopes To Fight Back Against Rider Skepticism

Platform sign at the Myrtle-Wyckoff stop on the LPlatform sign at the Myrtle-Wyckoff stop on the L Train. Resized photo courtesy of Eye On Transit.

If you a regular subway rider, you have been involved in the following scenario plenty of times. You are on an extremely crowded platform with hundreds of others waiting for a train that seems to be a world away. Everyone leans over & stares down the tunnel as they try to make that train in the distance arrive faster with each glare. When the train platforms in the station it is packed to the masses & the conductor urges everyone not to try & squeeze in as another train is right behind it.

The plea usually falls on deaf ears as people are tired of finding out that next train is minutes behind instead of right behind it. However if New York City Transit has its way (more specifically L Train Line General Manager Greg Lombardi), they will be able to fight back against rider skepticism. This is because they plan on testing out the technology of actually displaying where the next train is located. The test calls for the installation of a computer screen at each end of the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues station. The screen will show a graphic representation of the entire L Train line and the location of every train on it. William Neuman of the New York Times has more in this report:

It’s one of the great eye-rolling moments of life in New York: as subway riders try to jam onto a crowded train at rush hour, the conductor makes an announcement telling them to stay on the platform because “there’s another train right behind this one.”

To which most straphangers respond: Yeah, right.

Now, New York City Transit aims to counter that skepticism with a novel experiment at the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues station on the L line in Brooklyn. Beginning in December, officials will install a computer screen at each end of the platform showing a graphic representation of the entire L line and the location of every train on it. Waiting passengers can watch the trains move along the tracks as the data is updated every 15 seconds. That way, passengers can see for themselves if there really is another train “right behind this one.”

If the system works, and riders like it, it could be installed in other stations on the L line, said Greg Lombardi, the line’s general manager, who helped create the system. Ultimately it could be used on other lines as well.

Click here for the complete report.

Unless they screw it up, riders will not like this, they will love it! It is about time that such a system was put in place. Now we must make sure that the percentage of riders who make up the waste of space portion do not go around destroying these screens. It is a shame that you know at some point, some delinquent(s) will attempt to mess up the screens. I know we are far from such a system where all the stations are clean & kept up & filled with the latest technology that benefits riders & employees. However maybe this is just the first step in reaching infrastructure heaven for transit advocates.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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