SSI Fraud Allegations Devastate Eastern Ky.
Three people in the area have already committed suicide, now that the federal government has suspended Social Security Disability payments to more than 900 recipients on suspicion of fraud.
In 2012, lawmakers began investigating flamboyant Floyd County lawyer Eric Conn, the self-proclaimed “Mr. Social Security.” Some area residents may remember “Conn’s hotties,” who attended local events with Mr. Conn’s phone number emblazoned on their bikini tops. According to subsequently-filed court documents, Mr. Conn conspired with an administrative law judge and a doctor in more than $600 million in fraudulent claims. Over the years, Mr. Conn collected over $20 million in fees. In 2015, the Social Security Administration unilaterally suspended benefits in all cases that it considered fraudulent; under pressure from lawmakers, the SSA eventually relented and gave these individuals the opportunity to re-claim their benefits. But these re-evaluation hearings are not easy to win, because the government will not release medical records due to privacy laws and Mr. Conn supposedly shredded over 26,000 pounds of social security disability documents prior to his indictment.
Mr. Conn and two alleged co-conspirators are scheduled to stand trial in June 2017.
What is a Disability?
“Disabled” is one way to interpret a medical diagnosis, but it is not a diagnosis in and of itself. So, the entire social security disability process is rather subjective. As a threshold matter, the applicant must have a recognized disabling condition, preferably one that is in the SSA’s “Blue Book.” Several decades ago, lawmakers significantly expanded the qualifying conditions to include:
- Arthritis and other autoimmune disorders,
- High blood pressure and other cardiovascular disorders,
- Obesity and other systems disorders,
- Most respiratory disorders, and
- Depression and other neurological disorders.
In many cases, people who suffer from non-Blue Book serious illnesses, like migraine headaches, also may be eligible for social security disability benefits. Moreover, in some serious illness situations, the SSA expedites many claims.
Next, the disability must be so severe that the claimant is entirely unable to work. Typically, the SSA assigns an RFC (residual functional capacity) to each claimant, and compares the RFC with age, skills, education, and a few other factors to determine the extent of disability.
Basically to reduce the number of paid claims, most all applicants are denied, in whole or in part, at the initial screening phase. Later, at a hearing before an administrative law judge, an attorney introduces additional evidence, cross-examines witnesses, and makes legal arguments. This combination greatly increases the chances that the ALJ will approve the social security disability application. In most cases, recipients obtain benefits retroactive to the date they filed their initial claims.
Social security disability benefits provide an income stream to those who are unable to work. For a free consultation with an experienced disability lawyer in Mumfordville, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon. We do not charge upfront legal fees in social security disability cases.