A disturbing story about disabled railroad workers appeared today in the New York Times. The implication of the article is that many, if not most, of the retired employees of the Long Island Rail Road are faking disability claims. The sad thing is that the Times appears to be correct. This makes claims harder to make for truly disabled workers. If the public or government agencies believe that many people are faking disabilities, they’re less likely to believe the ones who really are disabled. Here’s a short excerpt from the article:
Virtually every career employee — as many as 97 percent in one recent year — applies for and gets disability payments soon after retirement, a computer analysis of federal records by The New York Times has found. Since 2000, those records show, about a quarter of a billion dollars in federal disability money has gone to former L.I.R.R. employees, including about 2,000 who retired during that time.
The L.I.R.R.’s disability rate suggests it is one of the nation’s most dangerous places to work. Yet in four of the last five years, the railroad has won national awards for improving worker safety.
“Short of the gulag, I can’t imagine any work force that would have a so-to-speak 90 percent disability attrition rate,” said Glenn Scammel, long one of Capitol Hill’s top experts on railroads. “That defies both logic and experience.”
Said Dr. J. Mark Melhorn, co-editor of a book on occupational disability published by the American Medical Association: “No one has a rate that high — that just doesn’t happen.”
And it is not just engineers, conductors or track workers seeking disability payments. Dozens of retired white-collar managers are doing it as well, including the former deputy general counsel, employment manager, claims manager and director of government and community affairs.