Just over a year since the NY Times’ landmark investigative report on rampant disability fraud among career Long Island Railroad employees, the Times reports that close to 100% of all L.I.R.R. disability claims are still approved.
So blatant was the misuse of the disability policy among railroad employees that Gov. Paterson got involved, giving attorney general Andrew Cuomo full power to clean up the chronic corruption.
Four days after the front-page story broke, feds raided the Long Island office of the Railroad Retirement Board, the hard-to-pin-down federal organization that signed off on–and paid out–the disability claims. (OK, technically, it was you and me that paid out the claims.) The feds wheeled out nine boxes of papers and five computers.
Two weeks after the story broke, L.I.R.R. president Helene Williams set up an “internal compliance unit” to “act as a watchdog,” she said, for cheating railroad vets.
Here’s what’s shocking today. When the Times blew the whistle last fall, some 95% of L.I.R.R. applicants for disability were approved. Now, with all the new watchdog measures in place, the approval rate is 97%, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office that came out Friday.
The Times reports:
As part of its oversight plan, the retirement board reviewed the cases of 74 retired L.I.R.R. employees who were receiving disability payments. As of April, benefits were continued in 73 of those cases; in the other case, the worker was found to have died, according to the report.
Since 2000, about $250 million–yes, a quarter-billion–has been paid out to former LIRR employees. To be sure, much of the money goes to perfectly legit claimants–hard-working folks who bust their butts to make sure the trains run smoothly for annoying commuters such as me. But it sure appears like anyone who asks for disability pay gets it.
One final note: the Railroad Retirement Board spent $248,000–your money, my money–to implement the new measures meant to weed out faulty disability claims.