A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a group of people who lost federal disability benefits after their lawyer was arrested for fraud.
The suit filed Friday in eastern Kentucky aims to revive the cases of about 500 people who most likely gave up the legal fight after the government began revoking benefits for lawyer Eric Conn’s former clients four years ago.
“They did not keep their appeals active, and there’s a number of reasons for that, part of it was the $400 filing fees,” said attorney Ned Pillersdorf, who along with several other lawyers filed the suit in federal court.
“I think it’s beyond arrogant for the (Social Security Administration) to basically tell those 500 people, ‘Well, you’re not getting your benefits back because you didn’t navigate through our obstacle course,'” Pillersdorf said.
Conn pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the largest Social Security fraud in history. He fled the country to avoid prison but was caught in Honduras and sentenced to 15 additional years in prison.
While Conn was fighting and fleeing the charges, thousands of his former clients had to defend their disability benefits in a series of hearings before administrative law judges. In those hearings, judges threw out all evidence from the doctors connected with Conn. His clients were not allowed to challenge that decision.
A federal appeals court decision in November restored benefits for about 300 of Conn’s former clients. The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Social Security Administration used an unconstitutional process to revoke benefits for hundreds of Conn’s former clients. The Social Security Administration asked the court for a rehearing. In March, the court denied that motion.
The month of a federal ruling was corrected to November from a previous version of this story.