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It suspended disability payments to hundreds of Conn’s former clients, propelling them into an unprecedented, year-long battle with the federal government.“We are suspending your disability benefits,” it had said.She thought of her husband, a proud man with a body broken from 26 years mining coal, and the fights over money they never had – until now.“Fraud,” the agency had written, and the humiliation consumed them.
For more than a year, Dye’s family and hundreds of others in the coalfields of Kentucky and West Virginia have been fighting the federal government to keep their Social Security Disability checks.
If they win on appeal, applicants are entitled to payments dating back to when they became unable to work and lawyers get a chunk of that money, paid directly by the agency. Media reports in 2011 questioned his relationship with government-employed Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty, who approved nearly all of Conn’s clients for disability. He entitled his report, “How Some Legal, Medical and Judicial Professionals Abused Social Security Disability Programs for the Country’s Most Vulnerable: A Case Study of the Conn Law Firm.” For 161 pages, it described an elaborate system in which Conn paid doctors and Daugherty to rubber-stamp disability claims, using phony medical evidence. Conn was not criminally charged, and he remained in good standing with the Kentucky Bar Association.