600 Long Island Railroad retirees are set to lose their disability after investigations from prosecutors found a disability fraud scheme in the way workers received benefits. For more than ten years the United States Railroad Retirement Board gave benefits over fraudulent medical evidence which received little scrutiny.
Under this new order, disability will be halted three months after the Board notifies retirees their payments are ending. This will save the agency $2 million a month and taxpayers $1.12 million over a retiree's lifetime.
According to Michael P. Freeman, Spokesmen for the Board, four months earlier disability payments were cut off to 229 of the same retirees. 214 had their payments reinstated though after they motioned for a reconsideration. Now that their benefits have once again stopped they can still apply and submit new medical evidence. Until then they'll stop receiving the aid.
The doctor who submitted these fraudulent medical records, Peter J. Ajemian told a judge in January the retirees weren't disabled. He plead guilty to fraud and conspiracy in a Manhattan federal court and has been sentenced to eight years in prison along with 24 other current workers and retirees. The FBI is also looking into eight others whose cases are pending.
In an interview with the New York Times, Joseph W. Ryan Jr., a criminal defense lawyer who defends one of the defendants in the case says, “It’s unfair and it’s contrary to the existing regulations. This board action seeks to vacate the retirees’ rights to reconsideration and that places a new burden on the retirees to reapply for what was awarded more than a decade ago.”
One of the men pushing to have the benefits taken away was the Railroad Retirement Board's inspector general, Martin J. Dickman. He started going after the fraudulent disability payments five months ago because of how much they are costing the agency.
Now federal prosecutors are pushing for a new motion. One which would recover some or all of the money doled out. LIRR retirees are still set to receive railroad pensions as it's separate from the federal disability benefits.
[Source: New York Times]