On June 27, 2013, the Railroad Retirement Board issued a Special Order terminating the occupational disability annuities of approximately 600 former Long Island Rail Road retirees.
The Board’s action followed a guilty plea by Dr. Peter Ajemian to charges filed by a U.S. Attorney that he provided false evidence for hundreds of Long Island Rail Road retirees who were not actually disabled to support their applications for Railroad Occupational Disability. On May 24, 2013, Dr. Ajemian was sentenced by a U.S. District Court to eight years for conspiracy and health care fraud, and to pay restitution of $116.5 million.
The Board’s Order terminates the annuities of all annuitants who submitted medical evidence from Dr. Ajemian at the time they filed their application for occupational disability and who were also receiving a private pension from the Long Island Rail Road.
The termination of annuities is prospective only. The Board will not attempt to recover disability payments already made. Under the Order, individuals who believe they remain entitled to disability benefits are allowed to file a new application for benefits. The decision to award a new disability annuity will be based on current medical evidence. Individuals will not have to submit evidence that they were disabled at the time of their original application.
Individuals who previously were notified that their disability payments had been terminated because of their reliance on Dr. Ajemian’s evidence and who had appealed that decision, thereby continuing to receive annuities pending decision on their appeal, will now be notified that their appeals are denied and they must file a new application.
All 600 individuals affected by the new Order will be notified by letter in early July. They will be told they can file a new application for disability based on their current medical condition, using evidence other than that previously furnished by Dr. Ajemian, or they can file for an age and service annuity if they are eligible.
Such individuals will not receive annuities while the Board considers their new application, which might take a few months. However, if the Board ultimately approves the new application, the individual will be made whole back to the date they applied. The annuity will not be reduced from the previous amount the individual was receiving.
A second doctor, Dr. Peter Lesniewski, is slated to go on trial July 15 for allegedly fraudulently submitting medical evidence on behalf of hundreds of other Long Island Rail Road retirees. The Railroad Retirement Board Inspector General has publicly vowed to ask the Board to terminate the benefits of annuitants who submitted evidence from Dr. Lesniewski should he plead guilty or be found guilty after trial.