“The social security appeals process is completely broken. As of September 2010, there reportedly is a backlog of over 700 thousand pending cases nationwide. The average process time for a claim is 416 days. The claimants who deserve the money have to wait, the only ones getting paid are the lawyers who caused this backlog because they want cases delayed to earn more legal fees per case. And the Judges have condoned it for years”… Retired employee from the SSA Philadelphia Region
The Waiting Game Has Turned Into An Expensive Nightmare
According to this inside source….“The relationship between this one law firm (Eric C. Conn) and Judge here in Region 3 can easily be construed as collusion. Anyone who seriously researches and studies the statistics that are available will come up with that same conclusion. The longer the process takes and the higher the percentage of cases approved by a judge means more money for this attorney."
It should be noted that a claimant who hires an attorney to Appeal his case has already been denied at least twice by SSA. Which is also time consuming. And in most cases, claimants (Title II) are awarded "back-pay" from winning their appeal are paid back to when they first applied for benefits.
This former staffer went onto explain that the entire appeals process needs to be torn down and re-invented. Having to wait for over a year during the process is very difficult for the claimant. “Yes, if their appeal is granted they eventually receive ‘back-pay’ for the time it takes to go through the entire ordeal. But most people have no other source of income and face losing everything they own while waiting.” Claimants have to depend on family, friends and welfare to survive while waiting on SSA.
“The government could have cut the amount of time it takes to resolve SSD and SSI claims a long time ago. To at least 90 days.” But, then they would have to re-evaluate how attorneys are paid. “That’s the whole key to this black whole in the system.”
Lawyers are paid 25% of the back-pay awarded to the claimant which can average approximately $3,500. Additional fees are available upon SSA authorization for work above and beyond the normal case expenses. There is a total cap of $6,000 per case. But, anyone who can add up the dollar amounts knows the longer a case takes the more back-pay/fees are awarded. According to our information, the average fee for an appeals case in the Huntington region is $3,000. That is based on the client’s case taking at least a year to be resolved.
Note: Lawyers are not actively working on a client’s case while it sits in appeal waiting to be heard. Whether it’s 3 months or a year, its all waiting time.
Is It Just Coincidence Or Collusion Between Lawyers And Administrative Appeals Judges?
Are the Administrative Appeal Judges in this area and Social Security aware of this practice of stalling cases for more back-pay? According to one employee in SSA, “Yes, the lawyers and judges in our region are all close friends who routinely meet socially.” They reportedly know what is occurring and condone it. This same source stated that the staff, lawyers and judges "party together."
A legal dictionary defines the term collusion as: “a secret agreement between opponents at law in order to obtain a judicial decision for some wrongful or improper purpose.”
Is it a Conn Game Or Collusion In The Huntington Appeal Office?
Is there one attorney that stands alone as owning the market on social security appeal cases? Just so happens... yes there is. And he claims to handle approximately 65% of all appeal cases in the tri-state area. And, reportedly boasts about being able to win each and every case because of his inside contacts. (there are plenty of lawyers in this region who take on SSA cases)
That's attorney Eric C. Conn. (pictured to the left) Who are those inside contacts he boasts of? Until recently, one was alleged to be former Social Security Judge Al Tinsley who retired March 8, 2010. The very next day, he went to work for Eric Conn.
Reportedly, Judge David Daugherty is the other inside source that Conn relies on to give favorable consideration on pending cases. Statistics show Daugherty has a very high approval rate. And at least one employee in the appeals office admitted to always recommending Eric Conn to people who appeal their denial for benefits. “Just ask anyone on the second and third floor, it is a fact that Conn has the clout to get a client approved.”
Records and statistics we discovered from Social Security appear on the surface to confirm the allegations of possible collusion with Conn’s law firm and Judge Daugherty. Our investigation also shows that not only does Eric Conn’s firm handle the vast majority of all SSD appeal cases in the tri-state area; Judge David Daugherty decides those claims and has only denied 4 out of 1,371 this year. His average is 97% approvals.
There are 3 other Judges in Huntington who handle far less cases, but have much higher denial ratio’s.
Facts taken out of SSA’s own records shows that, out of 1,678 appeal judges across the US, Daugherty has the third highest caseload with 1,478 this year to date. Records obtained also verify that since 2005, his caseload has steadily increased from 900 to 1400. And during this same time period, Daugherty has only denied an average of 2% of the claims he decides. The national average is considerable higher at 37%.
Coincidentally, Eric Conn’s caseload also began a steady increase during that same time period. One online advertisement that dates back to a 2005 says that… “The Eric C. Conn Law Complex, which includes over 30 employees handles 65 percent of this region's Social Security and SSI cases. Last year, the practice processed over 2,000 cases.”
How serious is he about his Social Security Disability Appeals practice? According to his website (linked below) ..."Located within the Eric C. Conn Law Complex is a medical wing equipped for evaluations by physicians and psychologist."
Huntington Region Judges awarded 3,696 appeal claims from January 2010, to September. If Eric Conn’s office actually handles 65% of all cases in this region, that would be 2,402 awarded clients. Using the $3,500 average that lawyers make per case equals out to $8,407,000.00. Are there any financial kickbacks or bribes from the Conn Law Firm to anyone associated in the appeals office? There are the rumors of payoffs, but we could not fully substantiate any facts to back it up.
Eric Conn himself is a bit of a celebrity and walking billboard in the tri-state area as to just how successful he has become handling SSA cases. His 15 minutes of national fame came with the exposure he received from dating nationally known porn star, Raven Riley. It wasn’t their time together that drew all of the press. It was the sensationalized breakup on YouTube and Facebook that made the headlines.
He is an attorney who has created a multi-million dollar empire at the expense of allowing and condoning his clients to become financially distraught because he helped create a backlog of cases in order to drive up higher attorney fee’s.
On The State Level
There are approximately 10 appeal judges that cover all of WV. Their offices are in Kanawha, Wayne and Monongalia Counties. The salary ranges from $112,000 to $150,000 a year. From January 2010 to September this year, WV administrative judges decided 6,966 cases and denied 1,526. According to SSA, the time it takes to process a case in Monongalia County is 394 days. Kanawha County takes 362 days and Wayne County is 263.
Currently, there are 12,075 backlogged cases waiting to be decided. This does not include the new 12,975 filed so far this year.
On The National Level
There are 1,678 federal administrative Judges in the US. Between January 2010 and September, 586,544 appeal decisions were made. Out of those, 394,080 were awarded and 192,464 were denied. A backlog exists of 701,191. This does not include the 717,909 new filings in this same time period.
The average processing time is 416 days. The average approval rating is only 33%.
Your Money At Work
Taking a quick guesstimate at just the expense cost for the appeal judges and attorneys is astronomical. Not to mention the staff and business expenses involved. There are approximately 1,678 judges across the US. The combined average salary is $137,000 a year. That alone equals out to $229,886,000
Ninety seven percent of people hire attorneys at some point to handle their cases. To date, 394,080 awards were made so far in 2010. Even if, each attorney only made $3,000 per case, that’s a total combined dollar amount of, $1,182,240,000.00 (One Billion, One Hundred Eighty Two Million, Two Hundred Forty Thousand Dollars). That is each year. And were not even through 2010.
First and foremost, the vast majority of lawyers who practice social security disability law are honest and forthright in their pursuit of appeal cases for their clients. That said, there are the few who abuse the system to line their bank accounts with millions. Lets look at the facts according to SSA stats, Eric Conn is in the SSA appeal process to make as much easy money as he can off of your disability.
It’s your back-pay he gets paid from! In the current pay structure created by the government, more time spent waiting for a decision, added expenses all equals up to as much as $6,000 in fees. Mix that in with a Judge David Daugherty who has a proven history of approving 97% of Eric Conn's caseload over the past several years; this lawyer has a lock on the system.
Don’t let your lawyer sell you on the story that having to wait for two to three years for a final disposition of a case is the norm. As one source for this story confided, it was not SSA’s intention to create such a backlog of cases. Whether collusion exists or not no longer matters because this system is “completely broken.”
End Of Story….
Jack Swint - Publisher
WV News 2011
Helpful Links - Note: Some links have been updated
Hearings And Appeals
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Appeals Office & Regions
Office Workload Data (updated)
Find Your Appeal Judge
ALJ Disposition (updated)
Judges Decision Database
Eric C Conn
**New Video Of Eric Conn Claiming He Is A Victim In SSA Scandal**
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