The LIRR Corruption That Has Been Ignored for More Than a Decade


If you think this problem is specific to Long Island, to one state, or to one government entity, you would be wrong. This corruption is emblematic of our cultural inertia. The LIRR has unsustainable legacy costs, and it’s largely because of a system that compels retirees to go out on disability, even though they are healthy enough to golf and play tennis regularly. In one year, 97% of LIRR retirees went out on full disability, an amount which about equals the base salary for their old jobs.

Joseph Rutigliano, golfing in 2008, Declared Occupationally Disabled After Retiring

On September 20, 2008, The New York Times had an article about this very issue.

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.”

These “disabled” workers, golf and play tennis regularly, rarely had to pay fees because they are “disabled.”

In fact, LI County Executive, Steve Levy, complained about it for years to deaf ears, and nothing was ever done.

I personally know someone who worked for the LIRR and he was told he had to go for disability by his union leader.

Today, the The NY Post reported the arrest of 11 suspects, including a former union president and two orthopedists, for a massive pension scam which involved fake disability claims by LIRR workers that cost the agency $1 billion.

This is only a small fraction of the people involved in this abuse. I hope the FBI has only just begun.