According to an article in Newsday today regarding the LIRR disability retirement scandal, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has now issued subpoenas to four long term disability insurance companies and five Long Island doctors who predominately examined LIRR workers. This is in the wake of recent reports indicating that a whopping 98% of Long Island Railroad workers retire with disability pensions. The fact that white collar LIRR employees were getting occupational disability pensions tells you how broken this system really is.
The long term disability insurance companies have been identified by the New York Times in their ongoing railroad disability scandal series as First Unum Life Insurance Company, AFLAC, Transamerica Financial Life Insurance Company and CUNA Mutual. It is possible that these disability insurance companies may have been victims of the broken Railroad Retirement Board disability decisions if they were required to pay out on policies if the LIRR employee was granted a disability retirement pension. It is not often on this blog that you will see me refer to long term disability insurers as potential victims, but it seems they might have been in this case.
As a disability lawyer for almost 20 years on Long Island, I am proud to say that I have never represented any LIRR employee in a Railroad Retirement Board disability claim. It appears they didn’t need me – all they had to do to get disability benefits was to raise their hand! Unfortunately, abuses like this tarnish those LIRR employees with legitimate disability claims, of which I am sure there are many.
I predict this story is only going to get bigger, and will eventually lead to major reform of the Long Island Rail Road workers disability system. One simple solution would be to simply abolish the Railroad Retirement Board, and to include LIRR employees in the Social Security Disability system, which generally requires the claimant to be "disabled from all work", not just their "regular occupation". This would also help LIRR workers since Social Security disability taxes withheld from their paycheck are far less than the railroad system taxes they now pay. Perhaps Senators Schumer and Clinton can propose this easy fix. However this broken system is reformed, the days of automatic disability pensions for LIRR workers are over. Now they will have to be truly disabled.