Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) February 6, 2017 - Hundreds of people who previously worked in the coal-mining industry in Kentucky and West Virginia have been embroiled in a fight with the federal government to retain their Social Security Disability (SSD) checks. All of them were represented by a flashy attorney named Eric C. Conn, who referred to himself as “Mr. Social Security.”
However, federal officials allege that Conn directed fraudulent claims in the amount of $600 million to this poverty-stricken area of Appalachia, and the government halted the disability payments. The suspension of such payments affected hundreds of Conn’s previous clients. Now, in order to continue receiving their checks, they have to prove that they were deserving of disability.
Prominent Tampa, Florida social security disability attorney David Magann says, “Although there may be fraud in the disability system, many people are eligible to receive it because, due to an injury, they can no longer work in their usual role for which they were trained. Also, their level of education is insufficient to qualify them for a different kind of employment.”
Those who are critical of SSD refer to it as a secret welfare program that changed over the years from one that helped people who were really disabled to one that assisted persons who were unable to obtain employment. These consist of individuals who are uneducated, physically weak and who reside in areas where the economy is dependent on back-breaking labor.
The response to such critics is that people who live in such financially-distressed regions have few choices. The widespread suspensions revealed their utter reliance on disability. Three people committed suicide, and others contemplated doing so.
One family that was adversely affected by the termination of disability payments was the Dye family, as reported in LancasterOnline. Donna Dye’s husband, who had worked in the coal mines for 26 years, had injured his back while working years ago. Then, in 2008, he was involved in a car crash that exacerbated those injuries. He refrained from applying for disability until he could no longer put pressure on the clutch in his truck or bend over to tie his shoe laces. After his first application was denied, he hired Conn.
Approximately 75 percent of first claims are turned down. If they are successful on appeal, applicants have a right to receive payments retroactively to the date on which they first became unable to work. Their attorneys receive a percentage of this amount. Conn earned over $120,000 in fees. An investigation revealed that he paid physicians and a judge to approve disability claims, using fabricated medical evidence.
Donna Dye and her husband had no knowledge that Conn was engaged in wrongful behavior. In May 2015, 11 months prior to Conn indictment, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued letters to hundreds of his clients, claiming fraud and advising them of suspensions. There are now about 150 volunteer attorneys representing Conn’s prior clients. But they say they are at a disadvantage because the agency is concluding that the clients participated in the fraud without being required to submit proof of any wrongdoing.
The SSA gave Conn’s former clients 10 days to gather their medical records, and offer proof, that they were disabled. But many, like Dye, were denied. In Dye’s case, he was told that a bad back would not prevent him from obtaining a desk job. However, it is unlikely that most employers would be willing to hire an old coal miner for a desk job, especially if he possessed only a high school diploma, a gap of eight years on his resume.
David W. Magann, P.A.
156 W. Robertson St.
Brandon, FL 33511
Call: (813) 657-9175
4012 Gunn Highway #165
Tampa, Florida 33618
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