NY AG Obtains Agreement With Railroad To End Disability Benefits Abuses

                               New York, NY (CompNewsNetwork) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Long Island Rail Road (“LIRR”) has agreed to appoint an independent examiner and implement other reforms to address abuses of the occupational disability benefits system for retirees and help ensure that benefits are available only to those who truly are disabled.

This agreement comes as part of Attorney General Cuomo's investigation into the findings that a disproportionately high number of LIRR employees applied for and received occupational disability benefits from the United States Railroad Retirement Board (“RRB”), a federal agency. The LIRR has agreed to retain an independent examiner to design a compliance program and recommend controls at the LIRR. The moves are to help address the problems with the occupational disability benefits that were uncovered by the Attorney General's investigation and highlighted in a public hearing in Long Island conducted by the Attorney General and attended by five members of Congress.

More than 90% of LIRR retirees applied for disability benefits from the RRB to supplement their pension -- a disproportionately high percentage in relation to other railroads -- and the RRB approved almost every application for the benefit. The investigation also exposed a cottage industry that has developed among certain doctors and consultants to assist LIRR employees in exploiting the system.

“Taxpayers, and my office, will not put up with a culture of entitlement and unchecked systemic abuses of disability benefits,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. “The appointment of an independent examiner is an important step to ending waste and abuse, and I am pleased to have the cooperation of the LIRR in this regard.”

Although the awarding of occupational disability benefits is controlled by the RRB, a federal agency, the LIRR has agreed to take steps to ensure that it is doing its part in curbing any abuse.

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams said, “The LIRR has been doing everything in its power to ensure that federal occupational disability pensions awarded by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board in Chicago are reserved for those who truly deserve them. We have been cooperating closely with the New York State Attorney General's Office to achieve this goal and we are pleased to announce this agreement with the AG's Office where we will review and look to improve our compliance program.”

In addition to designing a compliance program and recommending controls, the independent examiner will also, at a minimum:

   -  Review, and to the extent necessary, revise the current ethics training program at the LIRR to ensure that proper training is being given to all LIRR employees relating to the problems with occupational disability benefits that were uncovered last year
   -  Review the organization of the LIRR pension office and the retraining of its employees
   -  Review, and to the extent necessary, improve or expand the functions of the LIRR compliance unit that the LIRR created in the wake of the OAG's investigation
   -  Examine the RRB occupational disability benefits application and review processes and recommend measures designed to reduce the number of inappropriate applications for, or awards of, occupational disability benefits
   -  Assess the LIRR's monitoring of on-the-job safety, accident, injury, and medical issues.

The agreement announced today was handled by Special Deputy Attorney General for Public Integrity Ellen Nachtigall Biben and Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Stamm, with assistance from Assistant Attorneys General Renée L. Jarusinsky and Jessica E. Silver of the Public Integrity Bureau.

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