The state of New York is showing a bit of flexibility with Long Island Rail Road retirees who may have filed false disability claims, allegedly in order to increase their pension payouts. The U.S. Attorney representing the Southern District of New York has given retirees until July 6, 2012, to admit wrongdoing in order to receive amnesty from potential prosecution. Meanwhile, LIRR management has stated that anyone not opting for the deal and found to have made false disability claims may be disqualified from receiving any part of his or her pension.
An investigation began in 2008, when a New York Times article scrutinized the high number of disability pensions awarded to Long Island Rail Road employees. LIRR employees can retire as young as 50 if they have served the railroad for more than 20 years. The investigation has brought to light nearly 870 LIRR employees between the ages of 50 and 55 who were awarded a disability pension between 2004 and 2008.
The case has spiraled to over 20 people who have been arrested and charged with faking disability claims in order to receive higher payouts in their pensions. Arrests include two physicians who are accused of providing false disability diagnoses. Prosecutors believe the false claims could have led to federal disability pension payouts in excess of $1 billion.
Many believe claims are up due to a 2007 decision making it easier for employees to qualify for the disability pension. The new law made it seem that any worker injured on the job could qualify for the pension.
In order to decide if one has a legitimate disability claim, one should ask:
- Did the injury occur on the job?
- Is the employee unable to perform his or her job due to this injury?
- Is the employee receiving ongoing medical treatment for this injury?
- Is the injury permanent and will it plague the employee throughout retirement?
An employee or retiree who meets these criteria, but who is accused of fraud, should stand up for his or her rights to benefits. Seeking legal counsel if you have been accused of wrongdoing, as the penalties for a conviction on these charges can be severe and life-changing.