Claimants caught up in the Eric Conn mess in Kentucky and West Virginia are now receiving decisions from Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). About half are winning. The early signs are that the Appeals Council is fast-tracking appeals from those who were denied. Claimant are receiving decisions from the Appeals Council in less than a month. If things continue on the current track there will be hundreds of claimants needing an attorney for the federal court cases in the next three or four months.
These are fee-generating cases. Once the ALJ denies the claim, the interim benefits stop. There's also the possibility of fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).
There are attorneys available to serve as local counsel.
Social Security is not suggesting that any of these claimants participated in Eric Conn's questionable behavior. They've done nothing wrong. Taking on one of these cases doesn't involve an attorney in a complicated criminal matter.
There are good arguments that can and should be made on the merits of individual cases but there are extremely strong arguments that can be made in all cases concerning Social Security's methods. Social Security is simply assuming that there is fraud or similar fault in all of these cases. The claimant cannot see the evidence upon which this determination was made. They are not allowed to contest the determination of fraud or similar fault. ALJs hearing these cases are forbidden from considering this issue. The claimants are compelled to prove all over again that they were disabled. Important medical evidence is excluded from consideration and the claimant cannot contest this. The process is completely different than what Social Security has done in the past in cases involving allegations of fraud or similar fault. For that matter, it's completely different than what Social Security is doing right now in other cases. Also, claimants are not allowed to prove that they became disabled at a date later than the prior ALJ decision approving their claim. Most of the claimants caught up in this became sicker as time went on. Even if an ALJ holding a hearing now doesn't think the claimant was disabled at the time he or she went on benefits originally, the ALJ might want to approve the claim as of a later date. I've looked at the statute involved and I can't even figure out what argument that Social Security could make on this issue. It seems clear cut to me that Social Security can't do this.
If you're interested in getting involved in these fee-generating cases in federal court, contact Mary Going at Appalachian Research and Defense Fund (AppalRed) at mary[@]ardfky.org. Of course, there aren't any brackets in her real e-mail address. I just put them in there so she doesn't get so much spam.