Charges Filed in 'Massive' Disability Pension Fraud Case

Eleven people, including two doctors and seven Long Island Railroad retirees, are charged in a scheme in which hundreds of LIRR employees falsely declared themselves disabled so they could retire early and claim a disability annuity, authorities said.

Federal authorities on Oct. 27 announced a "massive fraud scheme" involving disability pensions collected by Long Island Railroad employees since 1998. Eleven people, including two doctors and seven Long Island Railroad retirees, are charged in the scheme in which hundreds of LIRR employees allegely falsely declared themselves disabled so they could retire early and claim a disability annuity, authorities said.

Three New York-area doctors accounted for 86 percent of the LIRR disability applications filed prior to 2008, according to the news release about the case from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, headed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Claims approved via the scheme could cause the Railroad Retirement Board to pay more than $1 billion in unwarranted disability benefits, it states.

"Benefit programs like the RRB's disability pension program were designed to be a safety net for the truly disabled, not a feeding trough for the truly dishonest," Bharara said in the release. "And in these tough economic times -- with stretched budgets, rising costs, frozen wages, and unemployed people -- it is especially disheartening to think that railroad employees would tell a train of lies to pad their early retirements, and that a handful of doctors would traffic on the credibility of their profession to promote a culture of fraud. If the charges are proved, it will be yet another disheartening example of the kind of corruption we have seen all too much of lately."

RRB is a federal agency that administers benefit programs for railroad employees and their families. LIRR alone among U.S. commuter railroads allows employees to retire at age 50 if they've been employed for at least 20 years. But the LIRR pension they get at that point pays less than the full retirement pay for which they would be eligible at age 65, when they also receive an RRB pension. Claiming disability can allow them to roughly equal their base salary, according to the release.

LIRR President Helena E. Williams issued this statement after the charges were announced: "The LIRR condemns any fraudulent activity associated with federal disability pension benefits. In August 2008 when the LIRR became aware of the high rate of LIRR retiree applications, the LIRR asked the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) IG and the MTA IG to investigate. The LIRR has cooperated with the U.S. Attorney's Office, the New York State Attorney General's Office, the MTA IG's Office and the RRB IG's office in their investigations of fraudulent disability pension applications. We support their efforts to root out fraud. This important benefit should be reserved only for those disabled members of the railroad community who truly deserve it. Federal disability benefits are funded by railroad employer and employee payroll taxes across the United States. We hope that today's actions by the U.S. Attorney will send a strong message to those who seek to defraud this important federal program."

Download Center

  • Lone Worker Safety Guide

    As organizations digitalize and remote operations become more commonplace, the number of lone workers is on the rise. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies. This guide was created to help employers better understand common lone worker risks and solutions for lone worker risk mitigation and incident prevention.

  • Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide

    Use this handy buyer's guide to learn the basics of selecting online safety training and how to use it at your workplace.

  • COVID Return-to-Work Checklist, Fall 2021

    Use this checklist as an aid to help your organization return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic in a safe and healthy manner.

  • SDS Buyer's Guide

    Learn to make informed decisions while searching for SDS Management Software.

  • Risk Matrix Guide

    Risk matrices come in many different shapes and sizes. Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively.

  • Industry Safe

Featured Whitepapers

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - October 2021

    October 2021


      On Route To Safe Material Handling
      Normalization of Deviations in Performance
      Arresting Fugitive Dusts
      Safety Shoes Make the Outfit for Well-Protected Workers
    View This Issue