HUNTINGTON – The Social Security Administration has suspended benefits to approximately 900 former clients of Kentucky attorney Eric C. Conn.
SSA confirmed it was reviewing disability benefits for approximately 1,500 cases that were tied to Conn and Social Security administrative judge David B. Daugherty.
SSA mailed notices in May to the former clients after its Office of the Inspector General found evidence of fraud in cases involving four doctors utilized by Conn and his law firm in Stanville, Ky.
Congressional investigators alleged Conn relied upon medical experts for false or fraudulent testimony, while Daugherty assigned himself those cases and awarded benefits to hundreds of applicants without justification.
Daugherty and Conn maintain their innocence. Conn's attorney, Kent Wicker, of Louisville, Ky., called news of the suspended benefits and redetermination notices unfortunate and unnecessary.
A motion was filed June 2 seeking an emergency injunction to block the Social Security Administration from suspending benefits to the claimants and relatives, just as their attorney reported as many as three clients committed suicide as a direct result of the suspensions.
The claimants' attorney, Ned Pillersdorf, of Prestonsburg, Ky., confirmed news of the first suicide June 2, according to The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington.
Pillersdorf cited the man's widow in saying the client shot himself at his Ivel, Ky., home.
Pillersdorf's late night filing then noted as many as three suicides. He urged any overwhelmed clients to contact a medical professional or suicide hotline.
In 2011, amid the scandal, Daugherty was placed on leave while SSA investigated the high number of social security applications he had granted so far during the fiscal year.
Daugherty had said it was simply a coincidence that he happened to approve all of the cases in the first half of the year, claiming that attorneys have been extremely well-prepared and had figured out how to bring forth cases that were hard to deny.
Conn was the attorney on a large number of the cases Daugherty approved.
Daugherty awarded benefits in each of the 729 disability cases he decided in the first six months of 2011's fiscal year. In 2010, Daugherty denied benefits in only four cases out of 1,284.
There are 1,500 administrative law judges who rule on disability cases in which applicants have been denied at least twice by Social Security. Judges award benefits approximately 60 percent of the time, according to government statistics.
Daugherty retired amid paid suspension and later voluntarily agreed to have his state law license annulled last summer.