Despite stringent regulations, disability fraud still occasionally happens. In fact, a former Social Security judge admitted his role in the biggest disability fraud scheme in U.S. history. Former administrative law judge David B. Daugherty was arrested in April for disability fraud and is due for sentencing on August 25th. Daugherty, who accepted $609,000 in cash bribes, pled guilty in May for approving over 3,000 unqualified Social Security disability claims.
Conspiracy Trio Pleads Guilty In Social Security Disability Fraud Case
Eastern Kentucky lawyer Eric C. Conn, nicknamed “Mr. Social Security,” collected more than $7 million in disability claimant representation fees. Conn, along with Daugherty and clinical psychologist Alfred Bradley Adkins, conspired together to defraud the Social Security Administration from 2004-2011. Conn testified he paid Adkins around $200,000 to sign fabricated medical forms and falsify medical records to support ineligible claims. At times, Adkins also performed perfunctory evaluations and altered findings that might contradict the client’s ability to receive disability benefits. As a result, the SSA paid over half a billion dollars in disability payments to thousands of unqualified beneficiaries.
Besides paying off an administrative judge, Conn also submitted false IQ tests for many client SSDI applications. During his March trial, Conn pleaded guilty to two counts for theft of government money and payment of gratuities. The jury convicted him on both charges, ordering Conn to pay nearly $170 million in restitution for his crimes. According to FBI agents, Conn cut off his ankle monitor on June 2 and fled the state. Despite failing to appear at his July court hearing, a judge sentenced Conn in absentia to 12 years in prison.
Adkins also entered a guilty plea, and a federal jury convicted him on conspiracy and fraud charges in June 2017. After taking him into custody, U.S. Marshals reported that Adkins tried to hang himself in a Lexington courthouse holding cell. After his unsuccessful suicide attempt, Adkins remains in custody until his September sentencing. Adkins faces up to 65 years in prison for his disability fraud crimes.
Outraged Congressman Responds to Disability Fraud Scheme Admissions
Texas congressman Sam Johnson expressed outrage that a federal judge accepted bribes in the biggest disability fraud case ever recorded. “This case proves once again that more needs to be done to stop disability fraud across America,” said Johnson, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. “I’m committed to working with my colleagues to help protect taxpayer dollars and prevent disability fraud.”
How to Protect Yourself from Social Security Disability Scams
Even disabled Americans who genuinely qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits risk being unwittingly victimized by scammers. So what’s the best way to avoid getting caught up in accidental disability fraud? Follow the steps below to protect yourself from criminals trying to profit off your vulnerability:
- Never give out your Social Security number. This includes entering it into websites or giving it to strangers over the phone. Our site’s claim evaluation forms will never ask you to enter your SSN for any reason. If you visit a site or answer a call asking for your SSN, close your browser or hang up immediately.
- Don’t believe anyone who guarantees they can “fast track” your disability benefits application. The SSA only expedites disability claims for eligible dire need cases or applicants whose conditions appear on the CAL list.
- Never wire money to a stranger or agree to pay someone over the phone. Even if you’re speaking to someone who “guarantees” they can get your benefits approved, it’s probably a disability scam.
- When applying for benefits on your own, use the SSA’s online portal to check your disability claim status. It’s also a good way to make sure you successfully completed and submitted your disability benefits application for the SSA to review.
Get Professional Help With Your Claim
Worried about submitting your own disability benefits claim? Get help from a disability advocate or Social Security attorney at no cost to you. A disability advocate can answer your questions about the complicated application process, especially if you have any special considerations. While disability advocates are not attorneys, they have the same legal powers lawyers have for helping disabled Americans. They must meet specific qualifications outlined under the SSA’s own regulations. Plus, disability advocates must pass a criminal background check, maintain liability insurance, pass a written examination and undergo continuing education. Whether choosing a disability advocate or Social Security attorney to represent you, it’s a great way to avoid fraud.
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Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.