Three suicides linked to blanket suspension of Social Security benefits for 900 in Kentucky
Kentucky attorney Ned Pillersdorf this week linked three suicides to the Social Security Administration’s decision to suspend benefits for 900 people without giving them a hearing.
Last week, the Social Security Administration confirmed that it had suspended benefits for 900 people after congressional investigators accused Kentucky attorney Eric C. Conn and David B. Daugherty, a former SSA judge, of fraud in 1,500 cases.
Investigators alleged that Conn would use several doctors to provide fraudulent medical testimony, and then Daugherty would assign the cases to himself.
“Social Security has completed the initial review and determined these approximate 1,500 individuals were not eligible for benefits based on the remaining evidence in the case file,” SSA spokesperson LaVenia J. LaVelle said in a statement.
At an emergency meeting at the Floyd County Bar Association last week, Attorney Ned Pillersdorf vowed to file an injunction on behalf of the 900 people who had lost benefits in what he called the “Conn fiasco.”
According to Pillersdorf, the SSA violated due process by suspending benefits without a hearing for each individual. And without a ruling from a federal judge, it could take the government around 15 months to reinstate the suspended cases.
Pillersdorf also filed class action lawsuits against Conn, his law firm and the Social Security Administration.
“The uncompensated legal team (Noah Friend, John Rosenberg and Ann Marie Regan) I have assembled will do everything in the court system to help achieve justice,” Pillersdorf wrote on Facebook. “While I am convinced we are legally correct in our position -there is no guarantee we will score a prompt legal victory. Another path to victory is that their be Congressional pressure on the Social Security Administration to reverse the suspension of benefits. I encourage everyone to contact their Representatives.”
By Sunday, it was clear that Pillersdorf was worried about some of his clients.
“Very concerned about some of the extremely distressed messages I have been receiving,” he noted. “Don’t hesitate to contact medical professional if feeling too overwhelmed. Fully realize how serious this is.”
And on Tuesday morning, Pillersdorf delivered some “devastating” news.
“The first client who contacted me about this fiasco-committed suicide yesterday,” he lamented. “please if you are feeling overwhelmed contact a medical professional-or call a suicide hotline-the emergency motion in federal court is being filed today-we should have a ruling fairly soon. Please share.”
Just hours later, the attorney said that there was unconfirmed news of another suicide. And by Tuesday night, Pillersdorf announced that “the death toll is up to three.”
“Waiting for me in my office tonight after the meeting was a distraught state police detective- who advised me that ‘there are now three apparent suicides- and that they all had suspension letters,'” Pillersdorf wrote in a Facebook update.
“Can’t help but think that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be turning over in his grave if he knew how the vulnerable people he sought to protect have been treated by the Social Security Administration that he established,” he later added.
Pillersdorf reported on Wednesday that Federal Judge Thapar had given the government until 5 p.m. on Thursday to respond to the request for an injunction.
“The fact that the judge is moving at warp speed gives us hope for a fast and favorable disposition,” he observed cautiously.
Watch the video below from WYMT, broadcast June 3, 2015.