Friday, October 09, 2009

LIRR Disability Claims Still Being Processed

Last year, it was revealed that retiring LIRR employees were getting federal disability checks when they were undeserving of them. That was costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and yet a year later the disability claims are still being rubber stamped:
The agency, the Railroad Retirement Board, which is the equivalent of Social Security for railroad workers, said last October that it would use greater oversight to examine claims filed by L.I.R.R. employees after reports in The New York Times that virtually every career L.I.R.R. employee applied for and received disability payments from the federal government.

But in the six months since the changes were adopted, the agency approved 64 of the 66 occupational disability claims filed by retired L.I.R.R. workers, according to the review, an audit by the Government Accountability Office that is to be released on Friday. A copy of the report was obtained by The Times.

The approval rate was roughly 97 percent, about the same level as before the new measures were enacted.

“Business as usual,” said Daniel Bertoni, the director of disability issues at the Government Accountability Office, who oversaw the study.
As the Times notes, retirees have obtained $250 million since 2000 from the federal government in addition to state pensions and benefits (that until recently included free access to state parks and golf courses, including the famous Bethpage golf course.

Did the LIRR change the way that they processed these claims? It doesn't appear so, although the LIRR had cracked down on those facilitating bogus claims (including arrests of several involved in October 2008). The problem is that once the claims are submitted to the FRB, they're rubber stamped, regardless of the actual merit of these claims.

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