Long Island Rail Road is currently under investigation after it was discovered that more than 90 percent of its retired employees applied for disability payments add almost 98 percent were approved by an obscure federal board. Retirees have collected an average of $26,000 in benefits annually.
It is believed that Long Island Rail Road employees were regularly instructing colleagues on how to successfully file disability applications. The employees provided information regarding doctors who would be willing to cooperate for a fee. Witnesses gave their testimony to state and federal officials saying that the Long Island Rail Road employees would walk their colleagues through the entire process and nearly every applicant was approved for benefits.
Four separate investigations are being conducted. According to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is the one heading the probes, since 2000, approximately $250 million has been paid to Long Island Rail Road retirees seeking disability benefits and it is unclear how many of these individuals were actually injured. The scandal became apparent after the Long Island Rail Road received national awards for worker safety in recent years.
Cuomo and Long Island’s five-member congressional delegation have been holding hearings on how the scandal unfolded.
“There appears to have been a cottage industry if you will, that developed to expedite the granting of disability benefits — certain labor consultants, certain doctors who specialized in the area. The question for this hearing is how did it happen?” said Cuomo.
Steven Cohen, Cuomo’s chief investigator, played a video interview with an orthopedist who was cooperating with the investigation and testified that Long Island Rail Road employees started to plan to apply for disability while they were healthy and still working. The orthopedist said that the employees seemed to approach the process as if it was routine. He was paid $750 to fill out the paperwork and identify injuries that usually involved the back, hips or knees and a lot of discomfort.
There have yet to be any criminal charges tied to the investigation.