Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 8, 2013

Social security judge accused of disability scheme

WASHINGTON — A retired Social Security judge in West Virginia collaborated with a lawyer to improperly award disability benefits to hundreds of applicants, according to a report released Monday by congressional investigators.

The report accuses retired administrative law Judge David B. Daugherty of scheming with lawyer Eric C. Conn to approve more than 1,800 cases from 2006 to 2010.

"By 2011, Mr. Conn and Judge Daugherty had collaborated on a scheme that enabled the judge to approve, in assembly-line fashion, hundreds of clients for disability benefits using manufactured medical evidence," said the report by the staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"The report describes how one lawyer, several judges and a group of doctors took advantage of the situation and exploited the program for their own personal benefit," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said at a committee hearing Monday. "Together, they moved hundreds of claimants onto the disability rolls based on manufactured medical evidence and boilerplate decisions. As a result they saw millions of dollars flow their way, promotions at work and had bad behavior ignored."

Conn runs a law firm specializing in disability cases in Stanville, Ky., near the West Virginia border. Daugherty, who was a judge based in Huntington, W.Va., retired in 2011 after questions were raised about his relationship with Conn, the report said.

Conn appeared at Monday's Senate hearing but declined to answer senators' questions, asserting his constitutional right against self-incrimination. Daugherty also attended the hearing but left before he was called to testify, said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the committee.

Carper said Daugherty had been subpoenaed to testify. Carper said he would consult with other senators before deciding how to respond to Daugherty leaving.

Two doctors who did work for Conn's clients told the committee that they are honest doctors with nothing to hide, though one doctor, Srinivas M. Ammisetty, said it was a mistake for him to sign medical forms that Conn's office had filled out for him.

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