Court rules in favor of Eric C. Conn clients, gives chance to get benefits back

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(WYMT) - 11 of Eric C. Conn's former clients have been given another chance Wednesday after the Social Security Administration (SSA) stripped them of their benefits.

In a news conference held on Friday, Attorney Ned Pillersdorf says the process was unconstitutional.

"Three and a half years of litigation is enough and the SSA needs to reinstate the benefits to people who have lost their benefits," said Pillersdorf.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld District Judge Amul Thapar's ruling that Conn's clients should have been allowed to rebut the SSA's allegation that their medical evidence was tainted with fraud, as the decision violated their due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Pillersdorf says he is hoping for the best outcome, but his expectations are bleak.

"If prior history is any indication, the answer is no. They will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and prolong the misery. I hope they won't. For once, they ought to show some compassion," explained Pillersdorf.

Former Conn client, Cheryl Martin, says she was one of the lucky ones.

"I've been more fortunate than a lot of people because my husband worked," Martin pointed out. However, she says she understands the issues this has caused for many others.

"It's created a lot of problems for families that have children and that's the only source of income they had," explained Martin.

According to the court documents:

"During the redetermination process, the SSA disregarded all medical evidence submitted by the four doctors participating in Conn’s scheme on the ground that such evidence was tainted by fraud. Plaintiffs had no opportunity to rebut the agency’s assertion of fraud as to this medical evidence. Ultimately, all plaintiffs were deemed ineligible for SSDI and SSI benefits as of the date of their original applications, and their benefits were terminated."

The court ruling determined that the SSA should have allowed clients to rebut the allegedly-fraudulent medical evidence because some of it may have been legitimate.

The court ruled that the SSA failed to provide "the core due process protection of a meaningful hearing".

Martin says the ruling to take away benefits was a "slap to the face".

"One day you're okay and you got your life lined out and the next thing you know you get a letter from Social Security saying guess what, you're not getting any income anymore," Martin pointed out.

In Friday's news conference, Pillersdorf explained a shredding company was paid to shred documents at Conn's law office.

Janet Stumbo, another lawyer present during Friday's conference talked about Conn's former secretaries admitted to burning many pieces of medical files.

Martin says she believes some of her medical records are included in more than two million missing documents.

"My medical records disappeared when I went back to get them for Mr. Pillersdorf they were nowhere to be found," recalled Martin.

Pillersdorf says Stumbo sent Congressman Hal Rogers a letter asking him to urge the SSA to end the litigation.

In the letter, she explains the issues surrounding prolonging the litigation.

"The protracted legal battles have caused a true humanitarian crisis in that the abrupt benefit cut off hit some of the most economically vulnerable citizens in one of the most poverty-stricken regions of this nation," wrote Stumbo.

Congressman Roger's office sent out this statement:

“Congressman Rogers has advocated at every opportunity for his constituents who were victimized by Eric C. Conn, successfully intervening with the Social Security Administration on numerous occasions and also providing individual assistance to hundreds of individuals through his case work team. As a Member of Congress, he is unable to wade into judicial proceedings but he and his staff continue to closely monitor this situation and attempt to provide as much assistance as possible to ensure they receive a fair process and the benefits they are owed.”

According to court documents, the SSA's procedure "violated long-standing principles of procedural due process."

The second round of almost 2,000 hearings is scheduled to resume on January 7th.

You can read the entire court ruling below. If viewing on a mobile app, click the link to view on a web browser.

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