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Disability attorney breaks silence: 'The truth will be forthcoming'

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) An eastern Kentucky attorney at the center of a national disability fraud investigation is breaking his silence. Floyd County attorney Eric Conn says "the truth will be forthcoming" and for others not to be so quick to judge.

A congressional report accuses Conn of scheming with retired administrative law Judge David B. Daugherty to approve more than 1,800 disability cases from 2006 to 2010.

"I have practiced Social Security disability law for twenty years. I have advertised extensively and represented every claimant to the best of my ability," wrote Conn in a statement sent to WKYT. "When changes in the law occurred, I studied those changes in an effort to better represent the people who put their faith in me. I have served my clients with honor and dignity."

Before a senate hearing on Monday that Conn refused to answer questiobns, a former worker for claimed he called doctors responsible for signing off on the reports "whore doctors" because they didn't question the information.

Allegations in a more than 160-page report from a U.S. Senate committee include that Conn "used his law practice to exploit key vulnerabilities in a critical federal safety net program and became wealthy in the process, "inapprioriate collusion," and the "collaborated on a scheme that enabled the judge to approve, in assembly-line fashion, hundreds of clients for disability benefits using manufactured medical evidence."

Conn - said to be the third highest paid disability lawyer in the country - stood before a senate hearing Monday where four witnesses testified against him. He's accused of perpetrating massive fraud against the social security administration.

Daugherty is said to have awarded an unusually high number of benefits totaling $ 2.5-billion while Conn would seek out doctors with suspicious credentials.

"He called them whore doctors because you could get them to do what you want and they were cheaper," said Melina Hicks who worked for Conn.

The report claims these doctors would sign a claimant's form -- paving the way for Judge David Daugherty to award benefits.
One in three of the cases reviewed revealed identical paperwork.

During this time, Conn received $4.5 million in lawyers fees paid by Social Security.

Jennifer Griffith and her co-worker Sarah Carver also testified Monday. They processed disability claims in Huntington, West Virginia.

In 2011, they filed a federal lawsuit against Conn and Daugherty under the false claims act which allows whistle blowers to get a portion of money recovered in fraud cases.

"With Judge Dougherty and Eric Conn, what I seen was 100 percent// if you look at that statistic alone, what's the likelihood that every claimant who walks into your office is disabled," said Carver who is a senior case technician for the Social Security Administration.

In a "60 Minutes" broadcast on Sunday, CBS News tracked down Conn.
When reporter Steve Kroft asked Conn to talk about his relationship with the former judge and his incredible success in disability court, Conn didn't elaborate.

"Boy, that's tempting. Oh, I would love to comment on some of that. But not - I'm really sorry, I don't think I should right now," Conn told CBS News.

At Monday's hearing, he remained even more restrained.
"I respectfully assert my constitutional right not to testify here today, sir," Conn told committee members.

Daugherty left the hearing before he was called to testify.
More than 11-million Americans receive disability insurance. That's up 20 percent in the last six years.

Sen. Tom Coburn who spear-headed the investigation says that this case is just one example of widespread abuse.

"Some in congress refuse to acknowledge that the disability programs are broken and in dire need of significant oversight. People who are truly disabled will pay the price of our dithering," said Sen. Coburn.

Analysts estimate that the disability fund could be bankrupt in just 18 months.


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