Today’s news:

LIRR retiree program needs reform, Schumer says

Two elected officials and federal Railroad Retirement Board officials have described as “an important step” their meeting on pension reforms, including scrutinizing possibly “dubious” disability claims by Long island Rail Road retirees.

Investigators from the state attorney general’s office, meanwhile, have issued subpoenas to five doctors, including one from Queens, and to four companies that specialized in disability policies.

Hundreds of retired LIRR employees are drawing on disability payments approved by the nation’s largest commuter railroad.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D−N.Y.) and U.S. Rep. Timothy Bishop (D−L.I.) conferred Friday with Retirement Board members Michael Schwartz, V.M. Speakman Jr. and Jerome Kever.

The meeting in Manhattan was the latest development in a growing scandal over what investigators contend was possible misrepresentations of disability by LIRR retirees.

“This meeting was productive and the board recognized that they have a problem to fix in their disability system for LIRR retirees,” Schumer said following the meeting.

“We need independent doctors to look at cases; we need more rigorous re−examinations of already approved cases; and we need the board to replace their rubber stamp approach with real oversight,” Schumer said.

“The Board wisely committed to root out wrongdoing. The bottom line is that only workers who are genuinely disabled should receive these benefits,” Schumer said.

Bishop said ”this meeting is an important step forward towards reforming a system which is plainly flawed.”

The reforms plan included “implementing a program to re−evaluate dubious disability claims.”

Kever, chairman of the Chicago−based Railroad Retirement Board, said a retirement system that approves 98 percent of disability claims “cannot be justified as prudent use of rail employee and rail employer tax dollars.”

The physicians issued subpoenas, according to The New York Times, were Dr. Peter Ajemian, Dr. Samir Dutta, Dr. Ralph Parisi, Dr. Joseph Bonafede and Peter Lesniewski. Dutta formerly maintained an office in Floral Park, Queens.

The Times, which first reported the story, said more than $250,000 had been paid between 2000 nod 2007 to LIRR retirees on disability claims to the Railroad Retirement Board.

The board, based in Chicago but which maintains an office on Long Island, pays retirement pensions to railroad employees, most of whom are excluded from the Social Security system.

Published reports said subpoenas were sent to First Unum Life Insurance Co.,TransAmerica Financial Life Insurance Co., Cuna Mutual Group and American Family Life Insurance Co. of New York.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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