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Benefits cut to N.Y. railroad retirees

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Nearly 600 retirees of a major New York commuter railroad are losing their disability benefits in the wake of a widespread scandal that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars and seen at least one physician sent to prison, a federal official said Tuesday.

The decision to cut off the benefits was made last week at a US Railroad Retirement Board meeting in Chicago, said Martin Dickman, inspector general for the board. The action follows last month’s sentencing of a physician who admitted inventing ‘‘narratives’’ to justify claims for hundreds of corrupt Long Island Rail Road workers trying to retire on disability for more than a decade.

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The employees ‘‘were not in fact disabled and could have continued working in their railroad jobs,’’ Dr. Peter Ajemian told a federal judge after pleading guilty this year. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Dickman recommended that any LIRR retiree who was treated by Ajemian lose his benefits. He said that if any of the retirees are legitimately disabled ‘‘then they should
reapply for benefits and the board should then perform a new review.’’ Dickman estimated that the retirees connected to the Ajemian case were collecting $2 million in benefits a month; he said some recipients were getting checks of $3,000 to $4,000 a month.

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