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.
AP article on hearing.