May 28, 2015

Claimants Caught In The Crossfire

     From the Lexington Herald-Dispatch:
The Social Security Administration confirmed Wednesday its review of disability benefits for approximately 1,500 cases, all tied to Kentucky attorney Eric C. Conn and former Social Security administrative judge David B. Daugherty.
The action suspends Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits to more than 900 individuals and their auxiliaries, while payment to others receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or a combination of both will continue as the review proceeds.
     Let me explain why Social Security's action is problematic. Eric Conn isn't guilty because 60 Minutes and a Congressional committee say he's guilty. The Social Security Administration has to bring charges against him, either to indict him for a crime and then convict him or to bring an action to suspend him from practicing before the agency and succeed in getting him suspended. Conn hasn't been indicted. So far, he hasn't been suspended from practicing before the agency. Social Security doesn't have the evidence to go after Eric Conn. However, the agency does have the evidence to summarily cut 900 people off benefits?
     Even if we assume that Conn is guilty as sin, that doesn't mean that his clients are guilty of anything or that they weren't disabled. What is alleged is that Conn got phony reports from doctors. Probably, his clients were unaware that Conn was doing anything wrong. More important, even if they were aware that Conn was doing something wrong, they may still be disabled. The allegation is that Conn was routinely obtaining and submitting phony medical reports on his clients. Adding a phony medical report to a file doesn't negate all the other evidence in the file. In most cases Conn would have been gilding the lily.
     From the point of view of an experienced Social Security attorney, what Conn is alleged to have done was just stupid. He was going to win most of the cases anyway. Obviously phony evidence might have impressed an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) or two but it would have antagonized many other ALJs. His alleged scheme would have cost a lot of money, been of dubious utility and subjected him to a big criminal risk. Instead of trying to make a living representing Social Security claimants, Conn is alleged to have used illegal means to try to make a killing. Bad career move.
     I worry that the claimants whose benefits are being cut off are being caught in a crossfire. Social Security wants to destroy Conn. Cutting many of his former clients off benefits will probably destroy Conn's ability to get new clients. Social Security can also demand back the attorney fees that Conn has received in those cases, destroying Conn financially. Conn may have it coming but I doubt that his former clients deserve this treatment.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Conn got phony reports from doctors"

I'm not an attorney but perhaps one can comment on my question. If his clients were deserving and the administrative record contained credible supporting information for disability why would conn need phony records?

Anonymous said...

sorry, but the claimant can't claim ignorance. They hired a rep to act as their agent. Anything he did is attributed to them.

Tim said...

Anon 10:51

Nice try. Their attorney told them to see a doctor. They did. The dr prepared a false report. That's not the client's fault. You are acting like the client suborned perjury, which they did not. The attorney did.

More importantly, Charles's analysis is right on. SSA just caused collateral damage in an attempt to destroy Conn.

Tim said...

As for anon at 10:32

the first thing to remember is that these cases are like trials where witnesses are deposed and discovery has taken place. So, we don't know which judge will see our clients when we go to prepare the case. You always have to assume the 20% lying judge will do the hearing. Then when you get the judge who pays 55%, you find the extra effort wasn't as necessary.

I bring clients with excellent clinical findings in front of judges all the time, but judges are not doctors and often don't know how to interpret clinical findings. When the only doctor to review the medical evidence says the person can work, Judges can take that way out. Providing a different (and, in my case, wholly independent) dr's visit can sway some judges.

Anonymous said...

Several points need to be made here. First, SSA is acting pursuant to an OIG investigation, not 60 Minutes' report, not Congress' hearing. Second, SSA has already reviewed hundreds more cases than these and determined that those claimants would have been disabled regardless of the phony reports. Third, the issue in these cases is not only that Conn's firm submitted phony evidence but also that Conn and Daughtry were holding sham hearings, i.e. lasted only a few minutes with little to no testimony or,in many cases, no hearings at all. There is real reason to doubt that benefits were properly paid.

Anonymous said...

Did these 4 doctors do any SSA disability work for attorneys other than Eric Conn? If yes, has SSA pulled those claims?

Anonymous said...

RE ANON 12:38

“SSA is acting pursuant to an OIG investigation, not 60 Minutes' report, not Congress' hearing.”

Really, I have not seen the document that says SSA is acting exclusively pursuant to an OIG investigation. Could you reference that?

“the issue in these cases is not only that Conn's firm submitted phony evidence but also that Conn and Daughtry were holding sham hearings, i.e. lasted only a few minutes with little to no testimony or, in many cases, no hearings at all.”

In all 900 cases that is the issue? Again where's that evidence.
There may be real reason to doubt that benefits were properly paid in some cases, but all 900? Also waiting years to pull the rug on 900 claimants is classless. Regular CDRs would have been reasonable. This is an attack on Conn using claimants. I suspect many if not most of the 900 will remain disabled. Happy 80th anniversary SSA.

Anonymous said...

The Agency is taking the coward's way out. While certainly these claims should be reviewed, the failure to take any action relative to Conn is despicable. If there is evidence of fraud sufficient to warrant stopping these folks' benefits, that fraud needs to be attributed to not only the doctors who signed the reports, but also to the attorney who created the system of generating these reports in the first place. The only folks who are apparently being punished, however, are the claimant's who in all likelihood knew nothing of what was going on. Even if they went to these doctors at Conn's request, the claimant's didn't write the reports and most likely never even knew anything about the contents.

Cowards, cowards, cowards for not going after Conn.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention that Anon @ 2:02. I'm told Dr. Bradley Adkins did exams for SSA, well into 2014 and AFTER SSA KNEW about the allegations of the senate hearing.

Anonymous said...

"Conn may have had it coming but I doubt his former clients deserve this treatment"? Huh?? These 900 clamants were not involved in the scam at all and were only innocents lambs led to the slaughter? Do you really hate claimants so much that you think they are all stupid? Really?? And I guess all of the Earned Income Credit receivers are innocent also? Do you have a clue about anything? Wait until the overpayment issues start.

Anonymous said...

SSA is just finding out how bad their own medicine tastes. Waaaah, we thought we had the market on whore medical providers cornered and working on our team. You could read the tea leaves when SSA told CE providers they could not do IMEs for claimants. They are kept professionals.

Anonymous 42 said...

SSA will not do anything against Conn unless the KY bar sanctions Conn first. However, they determined that at least two of Conn's hired doctors engaged in behavior that qualified as "fraud or similar fault" and any evidence submitted by them cannot be used.

Anonymous said...

What the writer fails to note is the fact that without the fraudulent medical records in the file, would there be any evidence to support the military judge's decision? I think not. If the Social Security Administration was "out to get Conn," it should have done so years ago. His conduct and that of Daugherty's was well known throughout the Office for many years. But for the courageous reporting of this conduct by two employees of that office, the actions would still be ongoing. No, SSA has not brought criminal charges against either of these clowns, but does that mean we should just ignore the overwhelming evidence against them? From one who observed it all.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 7:31 - If you observed it all, did you stand by and watch or are you "courageous?"

Anonymous said...

@7:31 the "courageous" whistle blowers were just as money hungry as those they targeted by filing a qui tam action in an attempt to personally profit. You can tell the qui tam whistle blowers were ODAR employees by the way the complaint was worded.

Anonymous said...

So if your T2 is low enough that you get $1 in SSI your benefits continue, but if you are $1 over the SSI income limit and therefore get T2 only, your benefits stop??? This sounds crazy even for SSA. They better get extra guards in the offices, like they did when they cut off the DAA folks (also as a result of 60 minutes, remember?) Think about how people freak out over a CDR cessation even when it's very clear that they are no longer disabled. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/Lawsuit+against+Eric+Conn.pdf

link to class action lawsuit filed by claimants

Dan Smith said...

@7:46

So both the class representatives in that suit ostensibly deserve and need their benefits. Both apparently have been battling cancer for some time.

1) is this an indication of just how indiscriminately these suspensions were doled out?
2) are these really the right class representatives to choose in a case like this? I know the traditional thinking in a class action is that class reps should be purer than caesar's wife, but a strong disability claim isn't the ideal case here, from my point of view. Arent these particular reps the most likely to get their benefits reinstated quickly, and thus to have accumulated no significant damages? The clients with the strongest claims against Conn, in my view, are those that missed their opportunity to build the evidence needed to support a legimiate claim- specifically those with distant AOD's and DLI's who Conn (presumably) failed to obtain a treating physician MSS on in favor of a sham consulting opinion. If Conn failed to even request treating physician MSS's, and these claimants get their benefits suspended for lack of supportive evidence, he's really on the hook in my estimation.