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Long Island Rail Road disability claims display 'pattern of potential fraud,' Mica says


A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued last week “details a pattern of potential fraud and abuse in occupational disability claims” associated with MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) retirees, according to Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.).

A GAO investigation of employee disability claims at the commuter railroad found that essentially every claim was approved in 2007, he said.
"While the investigation shows that problems may be confined to one railroad in particular, a nearly 100 percent approval rate of claims in a federal disability program raises serious questions," said Mica — who requested the GAO report — in a prepared statement. “Congress has a duty to make certain this program is being administered in a fair manner.”
Railroad worker retirement benefits are administered by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), an independent federal agency. LIRR workers applied to the RRB for occupational disability benefits at a rate 12 times higher than workers at other commuter railroads, the GAO report found.  The vast majority claims were for musculoskeletal problems, such as back pain, compared with half of claims made by other commuter road workers, Mica said.

In addition, most of the LIRR workers provided mandatory occupational disability evidence from one of only three doctors, which “GAO noted may be indicative of fraud and abuse,” he said.

LIRR has no role in granting federal pensions and has taken several internal steps to ensure claim abuses are prevented, LIRR officials said in a statement.
The GAO investigation initially was requested by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). When he withdrew his request, Mica and Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Ranking Republican Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) asked the agency to complete the investigation.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/12/2009