Feds Looking Into ‘Sweetheart Deals’ at LIRR

Railfanning.org News Wire

NEW YORK — Federal investigators are looking into sweetheart deals that allowed nearly all workers who retire from the Long Island Rrialroad, able-bodied or not, to receive federal disability benefits, officials said.

At least one U.S. senator — Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. — has demanded a comprehensive internal investigation of the federal Railroad Retirement Board, a little known independent federal agency. The board, according to Schumer, has approved millions of dollars in what appears to be unjustified federal disability benefits for retired LIRR workers.

“There is something rotten in the state of Denmark,” Schumer said. “The bottom line is this archaic agency needs to get its house in order and must figure out who approved these benefits, how and why. With the federal treasury already stretched to the limit, we cannot allow the benefits to be given out willy nilly. If heads at the Railroad Retirement Board have to roll, then so be it.”

Schumer said the high percentage of LIRR workers who were granted federal disability benefits is a far greater percentage than any other railroad in the country, including MetroNorth, also operated by the MTA.

“This has been going on there for years, and who knows, it could have been going on for generations,” the New York Post quoted one anonymous law enforcement source as saying. “An outrageous number used the system — it’s unfathomable.”

The senator said he wrote personal letters to both the head of the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General of the Railroad Retirement Board asking them to conduct an immediate joint investigation in to the Railroad Retirement Board and how these benefits were approved.

The primary function of the Railroad Retirement Board is the determination and payment of benefits under the retirement-survivor and unemployment-sickness programs. The Railroad Retirement Board employs field representatives to assist railroad personnel and their families in filing claims for benefits, examiners to adjudicate the claims, and information technology staff, equipment and programs to maintain earnings records, calculate benefits and process payments.

As an independent agency in the executive branch of the Federal Government, the Railroad Retirement Board reports to the president on its operations and to Congress.