It's easy to feel that there's no way to stop corruption, so some recent statistics from the Long Island Rail Road are heartening.
In the wake of investigations and convictions of LIRR retirees applying for disability benefits and the doctors who enabled them, applications for disability from LIRR retirees are down. Way down.
In 2011, 77 percent of eligible retirees applied for the benefits. But each year since, the percentage has fallen, and last year 29 percent of retirees applied for the benefits, which are overseen by the Railroad Retirement Board.CartoonDavies' latest cartoon: Nassau's got mailCommentSubmit your letterReader essaysGet published in Newsday
Retirees hired before 1988 who are 50 and have 20 years in can retire and get their LIRR pension. They must wait until age 65 to get their retirement board pension, their version of Social Security. But if they're ruled disabled, they can collect immediately. So most applied, and the board OK'd 98 percent of such applications.
In 2011, the U.S. attorney's office charged former LIRR workers, doctors and a retirement board employee in a conspiracy to defraud the board. Eventually, 33 people were convicted, including 29 LIRR workers, many of them seemingly healthy. These prosecutions may have scared away those considering a less-than-legitimate claim.
The LIRR shouldn't be under the railroad board, which is mostly for freight lines, and the board shouldn't approve 98 percent of the disability applications it gets. But progress matters.