I am one of many attorneys who have volunteered to represent the poor souls who were clients of attorney Eric Conn, who faces federal fraud charges. They are undergoing Social Security Administration re-determination hearings to get back disability checks.
It is astounding that 237 years into our democracy and supposed world-leading system of jurisprudence that federal administrators and some federal district judges have denied them fundamental due-process protections.
Here are the facts:
1. Their original hearings were roughly nine years ago. Prior to those hearings they underwent medical exams from one of three doctors the Social Security Administration assumed were part of a fraudulent scheme in some other cases from that era. But federal officials have provided zero evidence for this.
2. Every one of my clients have said this exam was the longest, most thorough exam they had. The doctor’s diagnosis was sufficient to support their disability awards.
3. Fast forward, the SSA, without any proof, just assumed every case from that period was based on fraud. They do not even allow evidence showing there was no fraud in our clients’ individual case. This is a rank denial of the claimants’ constitutional due-process rights.
4. The SSA has prohibited us from presenting the original examining doctors’ reports into evidence. This was about all these clients had to medically prove their disability. Now they each gave their own testimony, detailed, heartfelt accounts, but without the original doctor’s reports from 2007-08 the clients’ cases are doomed.
5. If there were other records to support their case they were trashed by Conn and his staff who burned all the records.
6. Every one of my clients had to take breaks throughout the day because of their back pain or, in other cases, migraines that could hit and debilitate at any time.
Where diagnosis exists to confirm the medical condition, SSA’s own vocational expert concedes that they could not do any work because no job exists that would permit them to take such unplanned and often lengthy breaks.
Many of my clients even had recertification of their disabilities within the past year, but this evidence was also off limits.
The ramifications of all this will determine the future of justice in America.
Surely, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court will come down solidly protecting their rights. But there are no guarantees anymore, it seems. And that is scary.
Richard Dawahare is a Lexington attorney.
Related: Associated Press article, “Attorney made millions off disability claims; former clients on the brink after government yanks funds” and commentary by Ned Pillersdorf, “Conn’s victims haunted by ghost of Joe McCarthy”