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Clinton, Schumer, Kennedy, Bishop Call For Expedited Investigation Into Possible Abuse Of Railroad Disability System

Press Release

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Charles E. Schumer, and Edward M. Kennedy, along with Congressman Tim Bishop, amid recent reports that certain retirees at the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) may be taking unfair advantage of the disability system, today called on the Inspector General's office to expedite a review of the matter. In a letter sent to Martin J. Dickman, Inspector General of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), the lawmakers outlined their concerns, citing accounts suggesting that some LIRR recipient retirees may not have been disabled prior to filing out their claims, and that doctors or other parties may have been complicit in helping to facilitate fraud upon the RRB.

"Workers often incur serious injuries that render them unable to perform future work. These workers deserve to receive the benefits to which they are entitled under our nation's railroad disability system. However, recent news reports contain alarming evidence that certain retirees at the LIRR may be taking unfair advantage of the system," said the coalition of lawmakers. "As members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which have jurisdiction over the Railroad Retirement Board, and as members of the New York delegation, we are deeply concerned by these reports, and believe that further examination is necessary."

In their letter to the RRB Inspector General, the delegation called for the Inspector General to expedite their ongoing investigation of the LIRR controversy. They also asked for the Inspector General to provide updates on the course of the investigation. Additionally, they asked for the investigation to focus on several key points, including an analysis of the RRB application rates for LIRR retirees, the extent to which the retirees relied on the same doctors in preparing applications, and the role that any facilitators may have played in helping retirees to apply for benefits for a fee.

A copy of the letter to Inspector General Dickman is attached -

October 9, 2008

The Honorable Martin J. Dickman
Inspector General
U.S. Railroad Retirement Board
844 North Rush Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2092

Dear Inspector General Dickman:

As you know, recent press reports indicate that the Railroad Retirement Board (Board) has awarded an unusually large number of occupational disability payments to retirees from the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). The news accounts suggest that there is evidence that some of the recipient retirees may not have been disabled prior to filing their claims. The reports quote experts who say the retirees filed claims in numbers far exceeding what one would expect. Finally, the news accounts suggest that doctors or "facilitators" may have participated in fraud upon the Board.

Employees who work on our nation's railroads often perform highly demanding and hazardous work that can exact a harsh physical toll. Workers often incur serious injuries that render them unable to perform further work. These workers deserve to receive the benefits to which they are entitled under our nation's railroad disability system. However, the reports contain alarming evidence that certain retirees at the LIRR may be taking unfair advantage of the system. Improper payments are inconsistent with the intent of Congress and could undermine a disability system that exists to safeguard railroad workers and their families in the event of an injury.

As members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which have jurisdiction over the Railroad Retirement Board, and as members of the New York delegation, we are deeply concerned by these reports, and believe that further examination is necessary. We understand that you are conducting an investigation of allegations of fraud on the Long Island Rail Road. We recognize that Inspector General reviews can be a lengthy process, and that they require a great deal of expertise and care. In light of the circumstances of these allegations, we do believe it is important for you to move quickly with the review. Therefore, we would respectfully ask you to expedite consideration of your review to the extent possible.

We would also respectfully ask that your investigation include the following topics:

1. An analysis of the Railroad Retirement Board application rates for LIRR retirees, including an analysis of how this data compares to other railroads, and how the number has changed over time.

2. An assessment of the role that any facilitators or mediators may have played in helping LIRR retirees to apply for benefits for a fee.

3. An analysis of the role that doctors may have played in helping LIRR retirees to prepare their applications.

4. An analysis of the extent to which LIRR retirees relied on the same doctors in preparing their applications.

5. A comparison of the percentage of LIRR retirees who receive occupational disability benefits with the overall percentage of retirees who receive occupational disability benefits under the Railroad Retirement Act.

We would also appreciate any steps you can take to provide updates and information as available and prior to receiving your final report with findings and conclusions. We also ask that you send us a copy of your report as soon as it is complete.

We look forward to working with you and your staff on this important matter. Please advise us if any clarifications are necessary.

Sincerely,

Hillary Rodham Clinton
United States Senator

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

Edward M. Kennedy
United States Senator

Timothy Bishop
Member of Congress


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