Sit'on back now kids and let me tell you the legend of Eric C. Conn
June 15, 2017 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Now ole' Eric was just a mountain boy from the holler, but that mountain boy had a dream, a dream of bein' a mountain lawyer and helpin' the good ole' folk of coal country get on Social Security Disability. Maybe if he'd stick to it I reckon thatd'en done been the story, but Eric's dream kept a-growin', and more and more a'the good people kept gettin' swept up in the rise an' fall of Mr. Social Security.

Ole' Eric's dream started kinda simple-like, in a double-wide down in Floyd Co., Kentucky. But soon Eric's dream started to grow, and it wasn't enough just bring'in SSDI to those that needed his help, he started gettin' idea's and soon he gottit in his head to bring Social Security benefits to every man, woman an child in Appalachia and be known r'nd the world as Mr. Social Security.

Eric's legend r'nd the state grew as his name got known, and he put his name out there in every where he knew how, from datin' porn stars, to buyin' up every billboard in the state, to deckin' out that double-wide with life size replica of the Lincoln Memorial. No, it didn't make too much sense to mucha anybody. Then he started cuttin' more an' more over the top ads sayin' he'll win every time, he even went and had a video made to get President Obama to appoint him to somethin' called the Social Security Advisory Board (although it ain't real clear how donkeys, country music legend Ralph Stanley, the Obama Girl and learnin' Spanish from a tape gonna' convince the President ta do mucha' anythang). Oh, and he cut a rap video too, just ta branch out, ya know, musically.

But turns out, the reason he won so much may'a been cause of an kickback scheme hatched with federal administrative judges, in which Ole' Eric paid 'em money to reassign and approve his cases without a hearing or readin' any of 'em. Sure is easy t'win when ain't nobody playin' on the other team.

Somethin' sure started t'smell fishy round Ole' Eric, cause he started gettin' national news coverage and then some people on in Washington got started askin' a whole lotta questions. After that Ole' Eric's dream took a rather differant' turn, what with criminal indictments against him, some doctors and those judges too. Pretty much e'erybody went to jail. And all those good people? Well. They never had much t'begin with, and they all gotta bit less now.

'Cept Old Eric, Eric's dream had gotten'a pretty big in'is own mind, and that dream didn't include sittin' ina jail cell. So Ole Eric up an' ran. And now he's on the lamb justa mountain boy had'a dream that gotta little big for his britches.
posted by T.D. Strange (16 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Makin' their way,
The only way they know how,
That's just a little bit more than the law will allow.
posted by GuyZero at 3:50 PM on June 15 [5 favorites]


Well I guess this is finally the "Justified"/"Better Call Saul" crossover I always talked about.
posted by thivaia at 3:52 PM on June 15 [8 favorites]


One administrative law judge, not judges, plural. That judge has also pled guilty and faces significant jail time at age 82, after resigning in disgrace and attempting suicide.

The tone of your post plays this up for laughs, but the entire saga has had devastating consequences for Mr. Conn's former clients who had their claims reviewed because they were premised, at least in part, on falsified evidence created by Mr. Conn. Of the thousand or so who have been reviewed only about half have been reinstated. A couple of claimants committed suicide after having their benefits cut with little warning.

The Social Secuirty Adminstration's response to this scandal has been far ranging and in some ways so much of an overreaction that it has made it much more difficult for claimants to get expedited decisions and for the Agency to handle the very real and ever growing backlog in disability hearings.

So, those of us both inside the Agency and outside the Agency (like Charles Hall, whose Blog you link to several times and who represents claimants) don't think there is anything funny about this tale at all.
posted by pasici at 4:18 PM on June 15 [28 favorites]


Judges, plural. Charles Andrus, the former hearing office chief judge pled guilty in connection with intimidating the whistleblowers and probably would've been indicted in the main conspiracy if not for his plea there.

And trust me I'm fully aware of the fallout, several of the links speak to the plight of Conn's former clients.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:30 PM on June 15 [6 favorites]


Thank you pasici. I'm still working on digesting this as a Legal Aid attorney working for the past 17 years assisting people through the nightmare that is obtaining SSI benefits. Just three weeks ago, a client who lost his left arm in the the war in Iraq was told by the Consultative Examiner ("doctor" Social Security sends claimants to for evaluation) was informed in writing that he could lift 20 lbs with his left arm. These stories do real damage to real people. This hurts people (high fives pasici)

My heart breaks over stuff like this.
posted by pipoquinha at 5:26 PM on June 15 [9 favorites]


He certainly lived up to his name as a Con(n) man. Those poor people. Can our society kick them even harder than they already have?


Probably.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:08 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Why did you choose to write this post in a seemingly mocking approximation of the vernacular of the people who have been hurt by this very sad situation?
posted by jacquilynne at 6:20 PM on June 15 [21 favorites]


Sure, the original post's folksy voice does come off like a bit of a clanger of an attempt at humor framing, that's what I thought at first read, but on reflection I hear a real bitterness and can't laugh but for crying tone to it. It is a genuine outrage but I'll keep that sentiment for the perp's not the person who brought it to my attention.

This kind of echoes a little of Judge Mark Ciavarella and the Kids For Cash scandal in PA. I don't think it is easy to digest this kind of think without bitter mirth at how completely beyond the pale these run of the mill douche bags were able to travel.
posted by Pembquist at 6:23 PM on June 15 [5 favorites]


It is no wonder vast parts of this country doubt the ability of the power of democratically elected government to solve the problems that affect them. I really see that as the real damage done. For the 2,000 clients of Conn's who may or may not be truly unable to work, there are literally millions of suffering people who face a government bureaucracy that exists not to help those who need it, but to interrogate, demean, and assume that each applicant is a lazy good for nothing out to scam the system. And voters want the candidate who promises to burn it all down, when they should be more concerned that what little of the safety net remains is going to burn along with it.

I take care of a lot of folks that honestly cannot work in our current economy. Physically, emotionally, mentally they are unable to manage the chaos and stress in their lives to show up reliably as a dependable employee. Temporary state benefits don't pay for shit around here and Social Security is the golden prize. And almost none of the people I see get approved unless they have the resources to lawyer up. The whole thing is a rigged game and it's not surprising there are porn star-fucking white dudes getting rich off it while the disabled and the people trying to help them are drowning with no options.

I personally refuse to deal with these lawyers. A: because most of the people who engage with them are far more employable than the people who are too disorganized to do so and B: the medical record of a reputable medical provider alone should be sufficient to prove one's case and C: the going rate for medical testimony in these cases is (I shit you not) $500 an hour, which comes straight out of the settlement the poor disabled homeless person eventually receives.

Disability lawyers should be taken entirely out of the process. It's hard to think of a human subspecies I respect less, for the direct harm they do as well as the way they undermine people's faith in a system that increasingly fails them.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:56 PM on June 15 [5 favorites]


It is no wonder vast parts of this country doubt the ability of the power of democratically elected government to solve the problems that affect them.

You say that like it's a bad thing. Doubting the ability of the government to solve problems is the beginning of wisdom.
posted by Bruce H. at 9:17 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Doubting the ability of the government to solve problems is the beginning of wisdom.

I'm sorry, this is just false. Only government can solve the problem of all wealth ending up in just a few hands, and the above is a favorite bit of propaganda from the owners of those hands.
posted by Maxwell's demon at 11:03 PM on June 15 [20 favorites]


Doubting the ability of the government to solve problems is the beginning of wisdom.

no, it's the beginning of chaos and anarchy and eventually revolution and civil war
posted by pyramid termite at 2:20 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


Disability lawyers should be taken entirely out of the process.

You do realize that in the most complicated cases, especially with non-exertional impairments, the appeals process eventually ends up in federal court?
posted by Public Corruption? at 5:13 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Doubting the ability of the government to solve problems is the beginning of wisdom.

There's a difference between doubting and refusing to acknowledge under any circumstances.
posted by Etrigan at 6:40 AM on June 16


You do realize that in the most complicated cases, especially with non-exertional impairments, the appeals process eventually ends up in federal court?

My experience is that nearly all the cases end up in federal court. At least around here, everything except run-over-by-truck-and-in-persistent-vegetative-state is immediately denied and everyone knows if you're going to get disability you're going to get it on appeal. Hopefully the first or second appeal. If you get to your third appeal (often 2 years or more after initially applying) you're really sweating it because it's understood after the third appeal it won't happen. Now imagine you are financially destitute (often homeless) and dealing with a chronic debilitating medical illness with doctor appointments, in and out of hospitals. One missed court date can totally fuck you.

This is literally the reason there are thousands of people living in tents under the freeway in Seattle. Millionaire lawyers with their stupid photo on billboards making rap songs is the face of America's lack of shame.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:57 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


I guess my point is that competent, adequately funded government that people had faith in would streamline the process, keep it out of the courts, save money, and serve everyone better. Do guys like Mr. Conn help or hurt us all? Their millions are your taxes.

But I'm naive, because government can't do anything right and we should cut taxes more. Or something.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:03 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


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