PRESTONSBURG – The Social Security Administration (SSA) filed its response in federal court Friday opposing a request on behalf of the 1,500 former social security and disability clients of Stanville attorney Eric C. Conn to prevent hearings in each of those cases.
The SSA, according to Prestonsburg attorney Ned Pillersdorf, has been steadfast in saying they intend to move ahead with individual hearings on the 1,500 cases due to a federal fraud case currently brought against Conn.
Those same former clients saw their disability benefits temporarily suspended earlier this year after a fraud investigation into Conn led to a federal case. Two former clients have since committed suicide, these just prior to the benefits being reinstated after a push from U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers.
The SSA’s response Friday maintained the hearings would begin in September, something Pillersdorf says “minimized” the difficulties such hearings would bring against Conn’s former clients.
“Their pleading in my view condescendingly minimized the representational crisis in finding representation for the 1,500, who are facing complex hearings with little time to locate ancient and possibly destroyed medical records,” Pillersdorf said.
Legal aid groups in Floyd County are working now with these 1,500 individuals to see they have a chance at securing lawyers through several means, including volunteering, should the hearings take place as scheduled.
During hearings earlier this year, two of Conn’s former employees testified saying medical records kept at his Stanville office were burned after the SSA opened an investigation into his practice. Now, Pillersdorf says, his former clients will have to locate records for the hearings that may not even exist.
The SSA also maintained in its response Friday that they had the right to suspend without a hearing the original 900 social security and disability recipients based on claims of fraud.
“Of course not to be found in their lengthy pleading is a scintilla of a suggestion that any of the 1,500 had any involvement in any fraud,” Pillersdorf said. “Nor did the SSA, in my view, explain how the Conn fraud allegations, which all allegedly occurred prior to 2010, allowed them to subject likely a majority of the 1,500 to hearings when the SSA reevaluated them after 2010 and found them to still entitled to benefits.”
Sheldon Compton is a staff writer for The Floyd County Times. He can be reached at (606) 886-8506.