Oct 7, 2013

What Is Alleged

     Here is a brief summary of the allegations made at the Senate Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee hearing today with some comments from me in brackets on how these allegations fit into the Social Security Act, regulations and practices:
  • Eric Conn represented claimants over an area covering the territories of several hearing offices. Conn's clients routinely waived a hearing with the hearing office where they lived and asked for a hearing near Conn's office. [Nothing improper here or ever unusual in an occasional case but accommodating Conn to this extent was unusual.]
  • Conn's cases were routinely assigned to different Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) in the hearing office but one ALJ, Judge Daugherty, went into the computer system and reassigned all of Conn's cases to himself. [If true, this was highly improper. It shouldn't have happened. Hearing office management should have stopped this immediately. If true, this should have brought about Daugherty's removal from his position as an ALJ. Anyone in a supervisory position at Social Security who was aware of this but failed to act should also be in serious trouble.]
  • Daugherty had regular telephone conversations with Conn during which he would tell Conn what sort of medical evidence he needed to see before approving each of the claimants Conn represented. [An occasional telephone conversation of this sort about a specific claimant isn't unusual. An ALJ might say something such as "I think that Mr. Jones has a strong case that I could approve without a hearing but I'd like to see some updated medical evidence. Can you get me updated records from Dr. Smith?" There's nothing wrong with that. However, I have never previously heard of something like what is alleged here. If true, it is clearly unprofessional behavior that should have brought about Daugherty's removal from office and Conn's suspension from Social Security practice. Anyone in a supervisory position who was aware of this but failed to act should be in serious trouble.]
  • Conn would schedule medical examinations with physicians he selected in order to meet Daugherty's requests. Conn would use physicians with seriously checkered pasts. Conn would give the physician a form to sign that Conn had already filled out. Conn used the previously completed forms in rotation. [If true, this is criminal, both on Conn's part and on the part of the physicians. Anyone in a supervisory position at Social Security who was aware of this but who failed to act should be in serious trouble.]
  • Daugherty would approve all of Conn's cases. 
  • Almost $100,000 was deposited in Daugherty's bank accounts that he could not explain. No allegation was made that the money came from Conn but this was suggested. [Obviously, if the money came from Conn, this is criminal behavior on the part of Conn and Daugherty.]
     Update: There are allegations that Social Security employees who made the allegations suffered reprisals from Social Security management and that Conn arranged for surveillance of one or more of them.
     AP article on hearing.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to the Coburn report:
http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=0d1ad28a-fd8a-4aca-93bd-c7bf9543af36

Anonymous said...

Dr. Adkins must be the worst witness I've ever seen. And I conduct disability hearings.

Anonymous said...

well, after reading this report - how does one have faith in the system - where ALJs are amost unaccountable - and many decisions are made on "manufactured" opinions solicited by the claimants' representative. For those who have read hearing decisions - WV is an extreme - but the practices are found in many hearing offices and by many for profit representatives.

Anonymous said...

6:31 not speaking for Conn but most attorneys submit opinion evidence from treating physicians. Every case has a "manufactured" opinion from non examining state agency opinion. You are right most SSDI decisions are based on manufactured evidence but mostly on the part of the Administration not attorneys.

Anonymous said...

I watched the entire hearing. As a former (retired, not ODAR) SSA manager I'm shocked and embarrassed for the agency. If even half of the allegations are proven true, this is huge.

The statistical data and MI (e.g. outlier reports) were certainly available at the time to discover and stop this misconduct earlier. Who in the Philadelphia RO knew what was going on, and when did they know? When was that information passed on to HQ?

I look forward to the agency's explanation and testimony at the next hearing. Hopefully it's not as bad as it looks from here. I suspect the agency will give the standard reply. They'll say that OIG took the lead as soon as this was discovered, and hope they can get away with that. IMO, that may not be enough this time.

Anonymous said...

Dear 8:20 AM, Cristaudo is from the Philadelphia RO. How could he not have known what was going on? Why was he suddenly removed as Chief ALJ almost two years ago?

Anonymous said...

This is very big, and I have never understood why there isn't more oversight. So many of the public have the impression that disability simply means you have a problem, and that you'll be denied the first time you apply, guaranteed. It's the general consensus to get an attorney from the get-go and they'll have you a check in 8 months or less.

No one listens to me, a disability adjudicator, when I tell them that attorneys are more or less useless. If you're truly disabled, then you will be allowed. Some people that get denied the first time are later allowed because they are older at that point and qualify as a med-voc allowance.

No one listens when I tell them that they don't WANT to be disabled. Disability is meant to provide assistance for those that CANNOT work because they are going to DIE in less than a year or pretty much can do nothing for themselves. Having something wrong with you does NOT qualify you for disability!!

Attorneys seem to love to scoop up the more subjective claims and play them up to be severely disabled cases. I've also run across several that try to speak our jargon and think if they tell me it's a compassionate allowance or TERI claim, then that is what it is. Nevermind the manuals we have to go by - manuals that are several feet thick when stacked together. Nevermind the listings, and nevermind the basic rules of disability. An attorney says they are disabled; therefore, they are disabled.

This is truly a soapbox that I could get on and stay on, but I will try to cut it short.

Basically, we need more oversight with ALJs, attorneys need to be highly regulated, and the public needs to be re-educated as to what disability truly means and is for.

Anonymous said...

SSI PEOPLE ARE FOR PEOPLE THAT CAN'T DO FOR THEIRSELVES MENTAL PROBLEMS N PEOPLE THAT CAN'T WORK !!!! Understand that ..which im shure most do ..if u even try to get it without anyone of those things definitely will be denied n denied So don't waist your time...PEOPLE...THEY DO EXAMINATIONS SO NO GETTING BY IT!!! I think things should be back to normal soon as possible...the old n disabled n mental problem people need their lives...OBAMA JUST WANTS US UNDER HIS WING NIT HAPPENING...

Anonymous said...

To 8:53am:
I have seen numerous cases where DDS ignores medical evidence and treating doctor's opinions in file (contrary to law), and CEs are a waste of paper and doctor fees because they are so badly done. DDS routinely discounts the claimant's allegations (contrary to law). Bottom line: DDSs make many decisions without following the disability regulations. You are correct that having a medical impairment does not automatically equal being disabled according to SSA regulations, but that is not the end of the story. Attorneys can, indeed, "speak disability language" and DDSs need to listen more carefully.