Former SSA Judge Admits He Took Bribes

Former SSA Judge Admits He Took Bribes

An ex-Social Security Administration judge faces up to four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to two felony bribery counts in a Kentucky federal court in a further development to one of the most sprawling Social Security Disability Insurance fraud cases in recent memory.

81-year-old David Daugherty admitted that he accepted nearly $610,000 in cash payments from disgraced lawyer Eric Conn. During the allocution, Mr. Daugherty said that he initially approached Mr. Conn in 2004 and asked Mr. Conn for $5,000 so that a family member could enter a substance abuse treatment facility. Eventually, the two worked out an arrangement whereby Mr. Conn submitted fraudulent Social Security disability insurance applications which Mr. Daugherty summarily approved, sometimes without even holding a hearing. The two met at a Louisa parking lot to complete their financial transactions. In 2015, when the scandal became public, the Social Security agency identified some 1,500 recipents, most of whom lived in eastern Kentucky, who may have have fraudulenty received benefits. Slightly less than half of these individuals won their Social Security Disability Insurance re-determination hearings.

Mr. Conn has already pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing; Dr. Alfred Adkins, a Pikeville psychologist who allegedly falsified impairment evaluations for Mr. Conn, has pleaded not guilty.

Social Security Disability Insurance Hearings

SSDI benefits are available to those who cannot work because of a recognized disability, which generally stems from a serious accident or a chronic and degenerative medical condition. Typically, the qualifying condition must be very severe and can be of a physical, mental, or emotional nature.

Since Congress expanded the Social Security Disability Insurance program several decades ago, the number of applicants has exploded while the amount of money available has remained pretty much the same. Therefore, to discourage applicants, what was once a relatively streamlined and victim-friendly process has become convoluted and adversarial.

There are basically five steps in the process:

  • Initial Determination: Typically, a hearing officer reviews the medical records and issues a summary decision, and that decision is almost always “no.”
  • Reconsideration: A few states, excluding Kentucky, have done way with the recon phase because it is just another hurdle for victims to overcome.
  • ALJ Hearing: A full, trial-like hearing before an administrative law judge is usually a claimant’s best opportunity to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
  • Appeals Council: If the ALJ erred, the claimant has an opportunity to correct the mistake and receive benefits.

Generally, the benefits are retroactive to the date of filing.

The SSDI process is almost impossible to navigate successfully without an aggressive advocate. For a free consultation with an experienced Social Security Disability Insurance lawyer in Franklin, contact Attorney Gary S. LOgsdon. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.