Oct 8, 2015

The Goat Rodeo Continues For Eric Conn's Former Clients

     I've learned a few things about Social Security's re-adjudication of the disability claims of Eric Conn's former clients. Let me share some of what I've heard:
  • In at least one case, Social Security's file contains reports from Drs. Huffnagel and Adkins, two of Eric Conn’s pet physicians. The report from Dr. Huffnagel has been excluded from consideration but the report from Dr. Adkins is supposed to be considered. Even though he also did work for Conn, Adkins was also working for Social Security. The agency wants the report that Adkins did for them considered. However, any reports that Adkins did at the behest of Eric Conn are excluded from consideration. He was an upstanding physician when he did work for Social Security but he was a crook when he did work for Eric Conn.
  • The claimants who had medical exams at the behest of Eric Conn universally describe the exams as reasonably thorough. The claimants say the exams took about twenty minutes. The write-ups of the exams seem professional. There may be problems with forms completed by these physicians but there's no sign of problems with the exams or the exam reports themselves. For example, there seems to be no reason to disbelieve a report by one of these physicians that he detected crepitation in a claimant's knee. Nevertheless, everything from these physicians has been excluded – unless SSA ordered the exam.
  • None of the claimants involved reports having been contacted by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) or the FBI.
  • I had thought that Social Security must have given Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) more instructions for these cases than what is contained in the agency's HALLEX manual. It looks like I was both right and wrong. I was right in believing that they should have been given more instructions but wrong in believing that they must have given additional instruction. It appears that they didn't. The result is confusion. At least one ALJ has refused to admit any evidence dated after the prior ALJ decision. Other ALJs are pondering whether they should admit into evidence the reports from Conn’s pet physicians. Nobody has any idea what the process is for asking permission to consider developments in the claimant’s health condition after the date of the prior ALJ decision. It’s not clear that there is a procedure or that any such procedure would be consistent with the agency's regulations, ALJ independence and the prohibition on ex parte contacts.
  • There are signs suggesting that no one at Social Security's St. Louis National Hearing Center, which is hearing the vast majority of these cases, has much enthusiasm for the task they’ve been given.
  • So far, it looks like well over half of the claimants involved have not sought legal help. There is reason for concern that these claimants are so intimidated by the criminal investigation that they are too scared to do anything even though none of them has done anything remotely criminal.
  • We’re still waiting on action from the District Court on the lawsuit aimed at stopping these hearings. The delay doesn’t seem like a good sign for these claimants since the Court knows that the hearings have begun. I’m pretty sure that there are those at Social Security who decided not to worry too much about what the agency was doing in these cases since they figured that the courts would intervene to stop this mess. I thought so too but it looks like we may have been wrong. The Court may dismiss the case on narrow technical grounds. That won't prevent these claimants from eventually getting relief. It just delays it until after these cases grind through the administrative process for a year or two.


Anonymous said...


I respect you immensely, but I question statements like this: "The claimants who had medical exams at the behest of Eric Conn universally describe the exams as reasonably thorough."

I don't think you are in a position to make such a broad statement, and I think if you polled your colleagues privately, you'd find that at least some claimants acknowledge that their exams were not thorough.

I understand that you have an agenda, but your position will be more persuasive if you steer clear of rhetoric and sweeping generalizations that undermine your credibility.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the delay in the District Court is simple. These people are not NFL quarterbacks. If they were NFL quarterbacks they could get quick hearings. Of course, if they were NFL quarterbacks they probably would never need disability.

Anonymous said...

7:46 can take a look at a sample of the write ups in the Senate file and then review the testimony of the docs. The narrative reports, including Adkins, look like your basic CE report. The problem isn't with the narrative, it is with the check box form that Conn's office is said to have completed and submitted. There is no credible evidence to support SSA's exclusion of the narrative reports. Shame on the district court for not stepping in and stopping these sham hearings without taking a hard look at the ad hoc procedures SSA cooked up to satisfy its critics.

Anonymous said...

If the doctors are willing to fill out MSS forms fraudulently, why do you think the narrative reports of the exams are any more reliable?

Anonymous said...

It's been a long time since I went to law school, but doesn't the term fraud have as a necessary element the intent to deceive? And the evidence that any of these doctors had the requisite intent to defraud is what exactly?

Oh, yes, I forgot. The "case" is built exclusively on Erick Conn's intent. While he stands convicted in the court of public opinion as announced by Tom Coburn and 60 Minutes(not elsewhere it should be noted), does the law allow that his unproven intent be imputed and generally smeared to clients, their doctors,their dogs and even their cats?

And Charles Hall's comment about the medical exams is a result of having polled many who are representing these unfortunate people. The consensus is indeed that the exams were routine and typical of those performed by the medical community for disability rating purposes in a variety of legal settings.

Anonymous said...

and doesn't SSA have in the planning a regulation that will dump the MSS?

Considering that most of these submitted by representatives are merely check forms with absolutely no connection to the medical evidence submitted = what a shock such a change could have on cookie cutter representation practiced by most representatives.

Anonymous said...

9:53 PM and 3:56 PM,

It looks like Charles has deleted the comment here, but there was a link to a Yahoo group discussing these hearings. In it, an attorney noted that a few of his clients had admitted that their examinations were not thorough:

"I do not want to undermine one of our principal arguments, but I think we are all looking for honesty. Many of the exams may have been thorough and legit, but a few of my clients have said they were not. Still it needs to be looked into."

Apparently, that comment doesn't help the narrative that the claimants *universally* describe the exams as thorough, so Charles decided not to acknowledge it.

Anonymous said...

7:53 p.m. apparently has never seen a cookie cutter DDS report with its dropdown menu MSS or a cookie cutter CE report with the checkbox MSS.

Seems like the pot is trying to tell the kettle what color it is.

Anonymous said...

This whole mess stinks. Conn, the crooked ALJ, the SSA, and the claimants all look bad. No one is innocent.

Anonymous said...

I disagree.Annonymous 10:03, I had NO idea what was happening and your judgement that no one is innocent is why I fear I am in jeopardy of loosing my income. Your knee jerk reaction to place me and those like me in the "corrupt" group is what is wrong with this entire process. Innocent until proven guilty or by your standards ---.take it from everyone, they're all guilty. Lord help us!!!