In September, our blog highlighted a story on the inordinately high number (over 95%!) of Long Island Railroad (LIRR) employees who file for and receive disability benefits. The New York Times has continued to follow the federal investigation of the LIRR and published two stories already this week focused on the role of doctors, managers and union leaders, many of whom have received subpoenas in the last month.
From the Times article published today: “To date, attention has focused primarily on the federal agency that awards the payments, as well as a network of labor consultants and doctors used by workers claiming disabilities. The testimony on Monday cast light on the role of railroad insiders as well.”
In yesterday’s hearing, an archived email from the former head of the LIRR pension office surfaced as the topic of focus. This email indicated that while in his position, Frederick S. Kreuder sold advice to other LIRR employees on timing retirement for maximum pension and how to best pay-off doctors during medical exams.
While all of those under investigation have yet to be charged, yesterday’s article profiles a woman accused of similarly commoditizing her expertise. Marie T. Baran, a former LIRR disabilities board member, left her job to start her own consultant business dishing out advice to her former LIRR co-workers. According to the Times, Baran “occasionally gave retirement seminars to union members. Until recently, she ran her consulting business out of a suite she shared with the Transportation Communications International Union office.”
As this investigation progresses, it is becoming more and more clear that the collaborators were located at all levels, internally and externally, forming a network that not only condoned the misappropriation of disability benefits, but actively aggravated the process.
— Norah Mallaney