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Long Island Rail Road Retirees Subpoenaed to Prove Disability

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New York’s attorney general last week started issuing subpoenas to recent Long Island Rail Road retirees who receive federal disability pensions after a government report raised questions about whether their disability claims were fraudulent.

The subpoenas are being issued to 108 recent retirees who Attorney General Andrew Cuomo suspects might be responsible for an unusually high rate of disability pensions among LIRR workers.

The pensions must win approval from the Federal Railroad Retirement Board. Disabled rail workers can get the pensions instead of Social Security.

The subpoenas followed by days a Government Accountability Office report that found the Railroad Retirement Board continues to approve nearly all disability claims from LIRR workers despite recent rule changes designed to prevent abuses.

One year ago, Board members said they would monitor disability claims more closely to detect fraud after media reports implied that abuse of the claims was widespread.

However, the GAO report said the claims abuses continue unchecked despite Railroad Retirement Board policy changes six months ago. Since then, the board has approved 64 of the 66 disability claims filed by retired LIRR workers, the GAO reported.

With 97 percent of the claims approved, retired workers are being paid for disabilities at the same rate as before the board’s rule changes, the GAO reported.

The new rules require stricter standards for proving a medical disability, such as wider use of magnetic resonance imaging scans and procedural checks that monitor whether the same doctors are used frequently by different claimants.

LIRR retirees receive disability payments at a three to four times higher rate than the average for other railroad workers, the GAO reported. Since 2000, the Railroad Retirement Board has authorized payments of about $250 million in federal disability compensation to LIRR retirees.

LIRR President Helena Williams said in a statement that the railroad has tried to educate employees about the correct standards for filing disability claims with the retirement board.

The education campaign included ethics training and closer monitoring of the information submitted by retirees on their claim forms.
The subpoenas being issued by Cuomo reportedly require the retirees to provide medical documentation of the disabilities they claim.

Contact: Joe Calderone, Long Island Rail Road, (718) 558-8228.

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