Eric C. Conn docuseries sparks ‘silent uprising,’ brings hope to former clients

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Published: May. 9, 2022 at 10:03 PM EDT
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PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - Hundreds of former clients of Eric C. Conn are still waiting for answers, seven years after the high-profile social security scandal changed their lives.

With the docuseries “The Big Conn,” which dropped Friday on Apple TV+, they hope to see those answers coming soon.

A meeting held Monday in Floyd County brought former clients to watch clips from the series before hearing an update from attorney Ned Pilersdorf, who represents them in cases against the Social Security Administration.

“Your hearings were declared unconstitutional,” he said. “So we’re arguing, why don’t you have your benefits back?”

Pilersdorf told those in attendance that the SSA contacted WilmerHale- another law practice in Washington, D.C.- prepared to discuss the case. He said that call was a big move from the SSA, since nothing similar has happened in the last seven years.

“So for the first time in seven years, we’ve got the first indication they might actually talk to us,” Pilersdorf said. “So we have gone to the top of the SSA. Whether anything will happen, I don’t know. I don’t want to mislead anybody.”

Mark Wohlander, another attorney involved in the case, said he is hearing good things in the wake of the documentary.

“A number of former United States attorneys, across the country, are outraged at the way it was handled in this district and in West Virginia. And I think you’ve got a lot of support as of Saturday morning,” said Wohlander. “So there’s there’s been a kind of a silent uprising behind the scenes.”

Pilersdorf said the docuseries has helped to shine a light on the people left behind after the scandal and he hopes the SSA is watching. He said the new acting head of social security was in on the meeting with WilmerHale and he is hopeful that it is a step forward.

AppalReD Legal Aid representative Evan Smith spoke to those in attendance as well, making sure everyone has representation in their case.

“You should not go through this alone,” he said.

Pilersdorf said the help of volunteer lawyers, AppalReD, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, and Wilmer Hale cannot be overstated, since they have made it possible to look out for everyone impacted.

“I don’t know what we would have done without AppalRed. They didn’t even have to get involved,” said Pilersdorf.

He said the Kentucky Bar Association also discussed making attorneys available if needed. But he hopes to see this wrap up without more hearings. The goal, he added, is to stop the SSA’s hearings and return benefits to the hundreds of clients whose loss of benefits has already been declared unconstitutional.

For people like Teddy Newsome and Brian Caudill, both former clients of Conn, those changes could mean everything.

“I wake up sick- physically sick- every morning. Doctors can’t find anything, but I know what’s wrong,” Caudill said. “It’s making me sick- physically ill- to be going through this process so long.”

Newsome was able to get other benefits, saying he is blessed to have something to work with. But Caudill, and hundreds of people like him, were left with no benefits and no security.

“Every day I have to wonder how my where am I going to get my money to eat today if it wasn’t for my father I don’t know what I would do,” he said.

He said he hopes the documentary will do what he has heard it can: show the true stories of those who lost it all and bring their benefits back, ending his nearly seven-year nightmare.

“And now that this has come out, I really hope that this will open eyes up and show people that we’re not part of the scheme that this man done here,” Caudill said.

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