Monday, September 22, 2008

Disability Fraud at the LIRR

Lirr_logo_2 Here is a disturbing report from the New York Times yesterday concerning the awarding of disability benefits to former workers at the Long Island Rail Road:

During the workweek, it is not uncommon to find retired L.I.R.R. employees, sometimes dozens of them, golfing there. A few even walk the course. Yet this is not your typical retiree outing.

These golfers are considered disabled. At an age when most people still work, they get a pension and tens of thousands of dollars in annual disability payments — a sum roughly equal to the base salary of their old jobs. Even the golf is free, courtesy of New York State taxpayers.

With incentives like these, occupational disabilities at the L.I.R.R. have become a full-blown epidemic.

Virtually every career employee — as many as 97 percent in one recent year — applies for and gets disability payments soon after retirement, a computer analysis of federal records by The New York Times has found. Since 2000, those records show, about a quarter of a billion dollars in federal disability money has gone to former L.I.R.R. employees, including about 2,000 who retired during that time.

The L.I.R.R.’s disability rate suggests it is one of the nation’s most dangerous places to work. Yet in four of the last five years, the railroad has won national awards for improving worker safety.

Read the whole article.  Its details are sickening.

Clearly, there are two problems here: those awarding benefits are not doing the necessary review of the files and are granting benefits when they are not appropriate.  Second, there is a break down of oversight over this determination process by federal Railroad Retirement Board:

In a statement in response to the Times article, the L.I.R.R. said that no one from the railroad or the transportation authority “was involved in the granting of these disability pensions by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.”

Governor Patterson has already announced an investigation into this appalling situation and I would expect for many heads to roll and a lot less golf being played by these former LIRR workers.

Hat Tip:  Dana Nguyen

PS

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/laborprof_blog/2008/09/disability-frau.html

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