As recently reported in the Herald-Leader, Eric Conn pleaded guilty to having filed 1,746 Social Security disability claims fraudulently by submitting false medical information as documentation. In the process, he colluded with an administrative law judge, Charles Daugherty, who ensured that the claims would be approved. Many readers, no doubt, assumed that since the reports were fraudulent, the clients were not disabled.
For a vast number of these clients, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, about 750 so far have been able to submit additional evidence of their disability at redetermination hearings, proving that they were disabled when they went to Conn years ago. This was no easy task, and fortunately each was represented by one of 135 pro-bono lawyers from all over this country. (Most of the hearings were by video.) With the help of those lawyers, clients who lost their hearings are appealing.
Social Security has conceded that none of the clients were involved in the fraud, and it is a tragedy that the agency did not use less severe alternatives to determine the clients’ continuing disability status rather than the process that has resulted in the loss of benefits for so many while their appeals continue.