March 13, 2018
Legal Aid of West Virginia continues to fight alongside former clients of Eric C. Conn, the attorney from Pikeville, KY who once boasted of being "Mr. Social Security." Conn’s clients, who have been notified by the Social Security Office that their benefits have been suspended due to Conn’s fraudulent actions, are now subject to loss of benefits and overpayment if they cannot prove they were disabled before their benefits were won through Conn’s office. Many of the clients are struggling to produce medical records from more than ten years ago and feel hopeless, and LAWV has had the opportunity to step in to provide invaluable assistance.
Paralegal Cathy Townsend-Estep, has been working to assign LAWV assistance or pro bono referrals to the affected clients from West Virginia. In the first round of approximately 1,800 letters sent out to Conn’s former clients, 34 West Virginia clients sought help from Legal Aid, with 27 cases being taken on by our staff and seven being taken on by pro bono attorneys. Of the 27 cases worked by LAWV, 13 favorable decisions were won at the hearing, three were advised without hearing, one received extensive services, and seven unfavorable decisions were returned. However, of the seven unfavorable, two were successfully granted benefits through other methods, and the others are in appeals.
Recently, the Social Security Office distributed upwards of 2,000 new letters to more of Conn’s clients. “Right now, we don’t know how many West Virginia clients will be on this newest list,” says Townsend-Estep. “If there are some that don’t meet our income requirements, we will need to find pro bono options, but if they are within our requirements, of course we will help them.”
After six months on the run from authorities, Conn was arrested in Honduras on December 2, 2017 and is now facing possible lifetime imprisonment. Conn was disqualified from representing social security clients on February 7 of this year, so the list of affected clients is still unknown in number and could continue to grow in need as letters are distributed.