Jack LattaStaff Writer
September 25, 2012
An administrative law judge, who was tied in a Wall Street Journal report to Eastern Kentucky disability lawyer Eric C. Conn, was cited in a recent U.S. Senate investigative report into Social Security disability programs.
The minority staff report was put together by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for the United State Senate and entitled, “Social Security Disability Programs: Improving the Quality of Benefit Award Decisions.”
The report states that the committee found that there was significant stress being put on the Disability Trust Fund due partly to the fact that “the number of individuals receiving disability benefits continues to rise at an unprecedented rate.”
David B. Daugherty, who was linked with Conn in a May 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal, was among those cited in the report. Daugherty was placed on indefinite administrative leave, before retiring in July of 2011 amid controversy.
In the report, it lists “Virginia Case 267,” which was decided by Daugherty, “involved a hearing that lasted only three minutes, from 9:18 a.m. to 9:21 a.m.”
Before the case, the claimant was examined by a consultant, and then during the three-minute hearing, Daugherty appeared to ignore all the medical evidence provided by the consultant, favoring instead, the recommendations of a checklist form filled out by another doctor at the request of the claimant’s attorney.
At one point in the recorded testimony, Judge Daugherty had to remind the claimant that he saw the attorney’s doctor.
It was reported last year in the Wall Street Journal article that several employees, including judges and other office staff, had complained of Daughtery assigning himself to cases in which Conn was involved. Though cases are supposed to be randomly assigned, Daughtery allegedly also assigned himself cases which were originally assigned to other judges.
According to one court schedule dated Feb. 22, 2006, Daugherty held 20 hearings spaced 15 minutes apart for Conn and his clients in a Prestonsburg field office. The fee range for approvals can fall between $3,000 and $6,000.
The Senate committee made eight recommendations to reform the procedures for Social security disability hearings and awards including requiring government representative at ALJ hearings to ensure key evidence and issues are properly presented, reduce instances in which SSA ALJs overlook evidence.
Also listed among the committee’s recommendations were the need to strengthen quality review processes, close the evidentiary record, strengthen use of medical listings, expedite updated job list, focused training for ALJs, strengthen consultative examinations, and reform the medical-vocational guidelines.