SCHUMER, BISHOP ANNOUNCE PROGRESS MADE AT MEETING WITH MEMBERS OF THE RAILROAD RETIREMENT BOARD
Senator, Congressman Met with the Three Directors of the Railroad Retirement Board This Morning Both Have Called for Independent Federal Probe in to Alleged Fraud and Abuse of Federal Disability Benefits
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U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representative Tim Bishop today announced that following their meeting with the top members of the Railroad Retirement, the members of the board agreed to consider several actions that will seek out possibly fraudulent disability claims as well as reform the LIRR disability system. Schumer and Bishop said that the Board had agreed as well to beef up the oversight of the disability process.
"This meeting was productive and the Board recognized that they have a problem to fix in their disability system for LIRR retirees. We need independent doctors to look at cases; we need more rigorous reexaminations of already approved cases and we need the Board to replace their rubber stamp approach with real oversight. The Board wisely committed to root out wrongdoing. Due to ongoing investigations the final form is not yet clear, but we will work with the Retirement Board, as well as labor and management, to implement common sense safeguards and more rigorous review," Schumer said. "The bottom line is that only workers who are genuinely disabled should receive these benefits."
"This meeting is an important step forward towards reforming a system which is plainly flawed," Bishop said. "I am pleased that the Board recognizes the need to immediately consider commonsense reforms, such as having independent doctors review cases, as opposed to taking the word of the applicant's doctor. I will continue to work with Senator Schumer, the Board and my colleagues to fix this system."
As a result of the meeting, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) will immediately review and implement controls over five different problem areas. This fivepoint plan is separate and apart from the ongoing federal and state investigations. These action items will be reviewed specific to the Long Island Railroad:
- The RRB will seriously consider developing a mechanism to conduct independent medical review of present and future occupational disability applications. The independent medical evaluators must be Boardapproved, nonlabor, nonmanagement preferred medical doctors who are familiar with railroad injuries.
- Implement a program to reevaluate dubious disability claims.
- Conduct more Board oversight of the Long Island regional RRB office and its employees.
- Institute programmatic changes that will trigger investigations into high numbers of particular ailment claims. For instance, recent media reports indicated that from 2000 to 2007, over 750 LIRR retirees filed claims for arthritis and rheumatism. Only 32 MetroNorth employees also did over that time period.
- Stringent review of management employees accessing the occupational disability program.
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