Railroad Retirement Benefits: Increased Number of Claim Denials Mirrors a Major Problem with Social Security Disability

April 28,2015
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About a year ago the New York Times published a report about abuses within the Long Island Railroad Disability retirement program. The gist of the report was that nearly 90% of retirees from the LIRR were supplementing their Retirement benefits with additional payments governed by the Federal Railroad Retirement Board.

Follow up reports by the Times articles authors noted that recommendations have been made to overhaul the Railroad Retirement Board’s Disability evaluation processes and, although there has not been much reported about this issue for the past year, I am sure that some internal investigations have commenced.

What bothers me about the article about abuses and the subsequent follow up is how it hurts the truly needy workers. I can personally attest to the fact that since the Times article was published in September 2008, the Railroad Retirement Board has changed its practices. That is not to say that they used to approve every one of my clients’ Railroad Retirement benefits applications. On the contrary, if the medical and vocational evidence didn’t support a claim, it was correctly denied.

However, whereas the Social Security Administration’s claims examiners seem to be stuck in a culture where they have to deny 60+% of all initial applications for disability, I never got that impression in dealing with the claims examiners from the Railroad Retirement Board. The Board’s claims examiners approved the claims where appropriate and denied the claims they couldn’t justify approving – but without the creative analysis used by SSA’s examiners. Since last year’s article, however, I have noticed more denials where the claims examiners are taking a page right out of the SSA playbook and denying many more Railroad claims.

I certainly understand why they are doing it; it’s just a shame that a Federal agency which actually seemed to be focused on helping their disabled workers is now forcing them to jump through the same hoops that Social Security claimants have been forced to jump through for years.

Gabe Hermann