WSAZ Severe Weather Alert

POLICE REPORT: Possible Attempted Suicide by Former Judge

By: WSAZ News Staff; The Associated Press Email
By: WSAZ News Staff; The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 10/18/13
BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Barboursville Police are investigating a possible attempted suicide by a former judge being investigated by the U.S. Senate Committee for awarding disability benefits.

According to a police report WSAZ.com obtained from Barboursville Police, David B. Daughtery was found in a church parking lot in Barboursville about 3:20 p.m. Monday.

Police say a worker at the church found Daugherty unconscious, sitting in his car. They say his breathing was labored and he had a poor pulse rate.

According to the report, the person who found Daugherty pulled him from the car.

Investigators say they found a garden hose duct taped to the exhaust pipe of the car, running into the rear passenger side window. According to the report, police found the garden hose was pinched on one end and melted on the other end by the exhaust.

According to the report, police also found an empty liquor bottle and empty pill container nearby.

Daugherty was taken to a Huntington hospital. No word on his condition.

Earlier this month, Daughtery was named in a report by a US Senate committee, saying he and Kentucky attorney Eric C. Conn improperly awarded disability benefits to hundreds of applicants.

The report says Daugherty approved claims in "assembly-line fashion," using manufactured medical evidence.

The report accuses Daugherty of plotting with lawyer Eric C. Conn to approve more than 1,800 cases from 2006 to 2010.

The report says Daugherty retired in 2011 after questions were raised about his relationship with Conn.



UPDATE 10/10/13 @ 6:52 a.m.
FLOYD COUNTY Ky. (WSAZ) -- A Floyd County disability lawyer accused of collaborating with a former West Virginia judge to improperly award disability benefits to hundreds of applicants released a statement on the accusations Thursday morning.

Attorney Eric Conn and retired administrative law Judge David Daughtery are accused of scheming to award undue disability benefits to hundreds of applicants over a four year period.

The accusations were in a report released Monday by congressional investigators. It accused Conn of scheming with Daugherty to approve more than 1,800 disability cases from 2006 to 2010.

Conn declined to answer questions during a U.S. Senate hearing Monday, asserting his constitutional right against self-incrimination. Daugherty left the hearing before being called to testify.

Wednesday, a Kentucky Bar Association official says the agency is reviewing the accusations

In his statement Thursday morning,Conn wrote, in part, “Early on, I decided that the field of Social Security disability law was not being practiced to the level contemplated by federal statutes. Social Security disability exists to provide a safety net for persons who, by reason of disability, are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity. Protection from financial ruin is the goal of the Social Security Act, and it is a part of the compact between Americans and their government.

Through the years, I have been a successful Social Security practitioner and I am one of only 58 Board Certified Social Security practitioners in the United States. I have represented thousands of clients zealously and I am proud to have succeeded in helping my clients avert economic disaster. During this time, I have also made a good living, paid my taxes, donated generously to the communities where I work, and employed more than thirty people in my law practice.

The practice of Social Security disability law is unlike any other form of law practice. Ordinary civil and criminal cases in trial and appellate courts are adversarial, with counsel representing each of the sides. Social Security disability practice is otherwise. In Social Security cases, the claimant is usually represented by counsel but the government is not. The Administrative Law Judge who hears the case is charged with applying the law to the facts presented by the claimant’s counsel. Administrative law judges routinely contact claimant’s attorneys, particularly those with high-volume practices, for the purpose of scheduling and case management. These practices are entirely proper under Social Security regulations.

I have practiced Social Security disability law for twenty years. I have advertised extensively and represented every claimant to the best of my ability. 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.

While I am not now at liberty, on the advice of counsel, to fully address all of the accusations against me, in due course, the truth will be forthcoming. For now, I request that public judgment be withheld until all the facts are known.”

Questions about Conn’s relationship with Daugherty were first raised by The Wall Street Journal in 2011.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 10/9/13 @ 7:53 a.m.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- A Kentucky Bar Association official says the agency is reviewing accusations that a Floyd County disability lawyer collaborated with a former West Virginia judge to improperly award disability benefits to hundreds of applicants.

Thomas Glover, chief bar counsel, says the agency is "looking at" the allegations against Eric C. Conn of Stanvillee, and they could affect his license if proven true.

The accusations against him were in a report released Monday by congressional investigators. It accused Conn of scheming with retired administrative law Judge David B. Daugherty to approve more than 1,800 disability cases from 2006 to 2010.

Conn declined to answer questions during a Senate hearing, asserting his constitutional right against self-incrimination. Daugherty left the hearing before being called to testify.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 10/7/13 @ 7 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A retired Social Security judge in West Virginia collaborated with a lawyer to improperly award disability benefits to hundreds of applicants, according to a report released Monday by congressional investigators.

The report accuses retired administrative law Judge David B. Daugherty of scheming with lawyer Eric C. Conn to approve more than 1,800 cases from 2006 to 2010.

"By 2011, Mr. Conn and Judge Daugherty had collaborated on a scheme that enabled the judge to approve, in assembly-line fashion, hundreds of clients for disability benefits using manufactured medical evidence," said the report by the staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"The report describes how one lawyer, several judges and a group of doctors took advantage of the situation and exploited the program for their own personal benefit," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said at a committee hearing Monday. "Together, they moved hundreds of claimants onto the disability rolls based on manufactured medical evidence and boilerplate decisions. As a result they saw millions of dollars flow their way, promotions at work and had bad behavior ignored."

Conn runs a law firm specializing in disability cases in Stanville, Ky., near the West Virginia border. Daugherty, who was a judge based in Huntington, W.Va., retired in 2011 after questions were raised about his relationship with Conn, the report said.

Conn appeared at Monday's Senate hearing but declined to answer senators' questions, asserting his constitutional right against self-incrimination. Daugherty also attended the hearing but left before he was called to testify, said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the committee.

Carper said Daugherty had been subpoenaed to testify. Carper said he would consult with other senators before deciding how to respond to Daugherty leaving.

Two doctors who did work for Conn's clients told the committee that they are honest doctors with nothing to hide, though one doctor, Srinivas M. Ammisetty, said it was a mistake for him to sign medical forms that Conn's office had filled out for him.

A. Bradley Adkins, a psychologist in Pikeville, Ky., said he, too, signed forms filled out by Conn's office.

A third doctor, David P. Herr of West Union, Ohio, declined to answer senators' questions, invoking his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

According to the report, the Social Security Administration paid Conn's firm more than $4.5 million in attorney fees from cases heard by Daugherty from 2006 to 2010. In 2010, Conn was the third highest-paid disability lawyer in the country, the report said.

Investigators reviewed Daugherty's bank records and found $96,000 in unexplained cash deposits, the report said.

"From 2003 to 2011, Judge Daugherty's bank records contain regularly occurring cash deposits totaling $69,800, the source of which is unexplained in the judge's financial disclosure forms," the report said. "From 2007 to 2011, his daughter's bank records list similar cash deposits totaling another $26,200. When asked about the $96,000 in cash deposits, Judge Daugherty refused to explain their origin or the source of the funds."

Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon declined to comment on whether the Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe of the matter.

Questions about Daugherty's relationship with Conn were first raised by The Wall Street Journal in 2011.

Nearly 11 million disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security disability benefits. That's a 45 percent increase from a decade ago. The average monthly benefit for a disabled worker is $1,130.

An additional 8.3 million people get Supplemental Security Income, a separately funded disability program for low-income people.

In order to qualify, people are supposed to have disabilities that prevent them from working and are expected to last at least a year or result in death.

Social Security disability claims are first processed through a network of local Social Security Administration field offices and state agencies called Disability Determination Services. About two-thirds of initial claims are rejected, according to agency statistics.

If your claim is rejected, you can ask the field office or state agency to reconsider. If your claim is rejected again, you can appeal to an administrative law judge, who is employed by Social Security.

The average processing time for a hearing before a judge is a little longer than a year, according to the agency. Daugherty approved claims for Conn's clients in as little as 30 days, the report said.



UPDATE 10/7/13 @ 1:55 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Congressional investigators are accusing a retired Social Security judge from Huntington of scheming with a Kentucky lawyer to improperly award disability benefits to hundreds of applicants.

A new report by the staff of a Senate committee says retired judge David B. Daugherty approved claims in "assembly-line fashion," using manufactured medical evidence.

The report accuses Daugherty of plotting with lawyer Eric C. Conn to approve more than 1,800 cases from 2006 to 2010.

Conn runs a law firm specializing in disability cases.

The report says Daugherty retired in 2011 after questions were raised about his relationship with Conn.

Daugherty and Conn are scheduled to testify Monday at a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which produced the report.

The hearing is set for 3 p.m.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/1/13
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ & AP) – Despite his retirement from the bench nearly two years ago, former judge David B. Daugherty continues to face intense legal scrutiny.

With nearly four decades experience on the bench, Daugherty -- a former Cabell County circuit judge who most recently worked in the Huntington office of the Social Security Administration -- finds himself in unchartered legal territory. He and eastern Kentucky disability lawyer Eric C. Conn, whose practice includes an office in Ashland, are named as defendants in a federal civil suit brought by two whistle blowers.

Both of those plaintiffs, Jennifer Griffith and Sarah Carver, worked in the Huntington SSA office at the same time as Daugherty.

Filed in October 2011 in the federal Eastern District of Kentucky and unsealed in mid-February of this year, the suit alleges that Daugherty and Conn schemed to defraud the federal government of millions of dollars by awarding excess disability claims. The federal government had been given an opportunity to intervene in the litigation, but chose not to do so. The reasons for the government declining to join the suit have not been released.

Conn released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

“It is noteworthy that the U.S. government studied the lawsuit for a year and half and decided not to join it or get involved. I can certainly say that I have always tried to represent my clients in the best and most appropriate way possible within all laws and rules.”

WSAZ.com also spoke with Daugherty just after the lawsuit was unsealed; he responded that it was the first he had heard of it.
About two years earlier, Daugherty had become the focus of national attention, including a multipage story published May 2011 in The Wall Street Journal. By July 2011, Daugherty had retired from the bench.

Among some of the findings in The Wall Street Journal story were that Daugherty, widely considered a pillar in the Huntington community, awarded benefits in all but four of 1,284 cases he decided in fiscal year 2010. That nearly 100 percent approval rate compared with a national average approval rate of 62 percent – something the federal lawsuit mentions prominently.

Shortly after The Wall Street Journal story was published, Daugherty sat down and talked at length with a WSAZ.com reporter. When asked why he had approved so many disability cases, he said, “Because I can. I enjoy the job. I’m a workaholic; I love the job.”

He went on to say, “If the documentary medical evidence is there, I find no reason to waste time and money holding a hearing, delaying benefits they're so deserving of.”

The suit alleges, however, that Daugherty and Conn schemed for mutual personal benefit. It states in part: “The fraudulent scheme involved Daugherty wrongfully taking control of a high number of Conn’s clients’ Social Security disability claims from randomly assigned administrative law judges and conducting sham proceedings, resulting in Conn clients overwhelmingly and fraudulently obtaining successful results … The fraudulent scheme resulted in millions of dollars in fraudulently obtained attorney fees to Conn.”

According to additional information in the suit, the fraudulent activity occurred from about 2002 to Daugherty’s retirement in July 2011.

Administrative law judges in Huntington hear cases involving people from eastern Kentucky and other parts of the region who appealed the federal government's decisions to turn down their disability claims. Daugherty retired from the Social Security Administration shortly after being placed on administrative leave while an investigation of his handling of cases took place.
Griffith and Carver, the plaintiffs who worked in the Huntington SSA office with Daugherty, said they reported questionable activity regarding Daugherty’s high approval of SSA disability cases to supervisors. They said no action was taken, and Daugherty continued in the same manner.

Both women also maintain that Daugherty conducted his own on-the-record hearings, “routinely (scheduling) up to twenty Conn Claims for on-the-record hearings on the same day at ten-minute intervals. Other ALJs (administrative law judges), conducting genuine hearings, were able to schedule only six to eight claims per day, each lasting 30 to 60 minutes. Although the claimants would be scheduled at intervals throughout the day, Conn and Eric Conn, P.S.C., instructed them to arrive at 9 a.m.”

Griffith left the Social Security Administration in 2007, while Carver works as a case technician in the West Virginia office of the agency.

Lawyers in Lexington and the District of Columbia filed the complaint for the government under the federal False Claims Act. It seeks to recover money from Conn that he allegedly received as a result of fraud. Under the False Claim Act, whistle blowers can be awarded a portion of the money recovered in cases that have defrauded the federal government.

Although the suit against Conn and Daugherty was filed in October 2011, it remained sealed until this year because the federal government requested several stays during 2012. Federal officials were considering at that time whether to join the case or not.

As referenced, the suit against Conn and Daugherty is civil in nature; there are no criminal allegations of wrongdoing by either party.



UPDATE 2/19/13 @ 5:07 p.m.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP & WSAZ) -- An Eastern Kentucky attorney and a former Cabell County Judge have been named in a federal lawsuit.

Two Social Security Administration employees have accused Eric C. Conn and David Daugherty of scheming to defraud the federal government out of millions of dollars.

In a lawsuit unsealed Tuesday in federal court, Conn and Daugherty are accused of manipulating the system for assigning appeals in disability claims to ensure Daugherty heard Conn's cases.

Daugherty worked in the Huntington, W.Va., office of the Social Security Administration. In 2011, WSAZ reported that an investigation into Daugherty's office showed that out of the 1500 administrative law judges nationwide, he made more decisions than any other in that year. During that time, Daugherty had a 100% approval rate with zero denials.

Conn has offices in Ashland and Stanville.

The lawsuit alleges that Daugherty awarded disability payments to Conn's clients at a higher rate than other judges did.

Eric C. Conn released the following statement in response:
"It is noteworthy that the U.S. government studied the lawsuit for a year and half and decided not to join it or get involved. I can certainly say that I have always tried to represent my clients in the best and most appropriate way possible within all laws and rules."

WSAZ also spoke with Daugherty Tuesday evening who said it was the first he had heard of the lawsuit.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 7/19/11 @ 4:05 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The man in the middle of a Social Security office controversy has retired.

Judge David B. Daugherty has retired from Huntington office of the Social Security Administration effective July 13. He was placed on indefinite administrative leave in late May while an investigation by the agency of his practices continued.

The fallout surrounding Judge Daugherty started from a Wall Street Journal article looking into a questionable number of Social Security cases he approved.

In the last fiscal year, Judge Daugherty heard more Social Security cases than any other of the 1,500 administrative law judges nationwide. A federal investigation was launched in May.



UPDATE 6/9/11
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The fallout at the Huntington office of the Social Security Administration continues following a Wall Street Journal article looking into the number of favorable rulings by Judge David B. Daugherty.

The Journal reported Thursday that Chief Judge Charlie Andrus has stepped down as the Chief Administrative Law Judge, but will stay on as a Administrative Law Judge.

Charlie Andrus became Huntington's Chief Judge in 1997. The paper says his decision to give up his administrative duties was voluntary.

Judge Daugherty was placed on indefinite administrative leave late last month while an investigation by the agency of his practices continues. Judge Andrus was Judge Daugherty's supervisor.

Judge Daugherty has denied any wrongdoing. He attracted attention with the high number of disability claims cases he has decided, and the high number of those cases he’s approved. In the current fiscal year alone, Judge Daugherty has heard more cases than any of the other 1500 administrative law judges nationwide.

Judge Daugherty says that under pressure from the Social Security Administration to move the backlog of cases, he resorted to quicker methods that other judges have opted not to use.



UPDATE 5/27/11 @ 7 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Allegations of abuse of power have led a federal agency to place a local administrative law judge on administrative leave.

Judge David B. Daugherty has worked for the Huntington regional Social Security Office for more than 21 years. As of Friday, he's off the job -- at least for now.

Daugherty said he was disappointed that he's sitting at home when he says there's so much work piling up at the office and so many people desperate, waiting on disability benefits.

WSAZ.com's Carrie Cline met with Daugherty at his home Friday afternoon. Although he is under scrutiny for not denying enough cases, Daugherty denied all of the allegations against him.

“Why have you approved so many cases?” Cline asked.

“Because I can. I enjoy the job, I’m a workaholic; I love the job,” Daugherty said.

Daugherty says there's nothing wrong with his high approval rate of disability claims cases.

A look at the latest statistics available from the Social Security Administration show -- of the 1,500 administrative law judges nationwide -- Daugherty made more decisions than any other so far this fiscal year. Comparing the top three decision-makers, Daugherty's zero denials and 100 percent approvals stick out.

“What about people who say you're approving cases that aren't deserving?” Cline asked.

“Never I've never granted benefits unless there's documentary evidence that fully supports the claimant's case,” Daugherty said.

Daugherty says during the last few years, the Social Security Administration has asked judges to employ various methods to move cases along more quickly and free up the tremendous backlog. He says he's one of the few who has followed through with those suggestions, including approving cases without a hearing.

“If the documentary medical evidence is there, I find no reason to waste time and money holding a hearing delaying benefits they're so deserving of,” Daugherty said.

“Is this legal?" Cline asked.

“Yes, and, if they’re deserving, they should get them,” Daugherty said.

The Social Security Administration says judges are supposed to balance the need for paying deserving claimants with the duty to protect taxpayer dollars. But, Daugherty isn't alone in his high approval percentages. Nearly 30 judges approved 95 percent of their cases, and he says that number is growing partly because of how attorneys are presenting the cases.

“The lawyers are just preparing their cases so much better," Daugherty said. "They're presenting evidence that in the past wasn't available for whatever reason. They've learned how to do it. They certainly have."

Nonetheless, it's Daugherty who's sitting out on administrative leave. He says he is being paid and receiving full benefits, but has not been told why he's been placed on leave.
He suspects it's because he refused to talk with the federal investigators who've been in the office for about a week and interviewed many of his colleagues.

Daugherty is also under fire for hearing a high number of cases for certain lawyers -- namely Eric C. Conn from eastern Kentucky. He denies that claim, as well, saying it may seem that way because he chooses to schedule more hearings than the other judges and thus ends up with more of everyone's cases.

Conn had no comment.



UPDATE 5/26/11 @ 8 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- An administrative law judge with the Huntington Regional Social Security Office has been placed on administrative leave indefinitely.

Last week WSAZ.com found out Judge Daugherty was under federal investigation for misuse of power including approving disability cases without holding a hearing.

A source within the regional office tells WSAZ.com Judge Daugherty was escorted out of the building today and his security privileges were revoked.

Judge Daugherty has been an administrative law judge for 21 years.


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Rubber stamp approval -- that's what a local social security judge is accused of when it comes to disability claims. David B. Daugherty, an administrative law judge in Huntington, is the subject of a federal investigation for approving too many disability cases.

It's raising some serious concerns that made the front page of today's wall street journal.

In a system where only about 75 percent of the cases presented for disability claims are typically approved, Judge Daugherty has a nearly 100 percent approval. It's a record that's raising some red flags.

“I have been told there are federal investigators here, but I haven’t met with them,” said Judge David Daugherty.

Judge Daugherty was business as usual today despite making national headlines in the Wall Street Journal. The 75-year-old has been an Administrative Law Judge for the Social Security Office in Huntington for 21 years.

According to statistics from 2005-2008, Judge Daugherty heard nearly 5000 cases and approved nearly all of them. According to the Wall Street Journal -- this year, Judge Daugherty processed more cases than all but three judges nationwide. His approval rate is nearly 100 percent.

“Most cases go through an initial denial and then the appeals process before they eventually get to state their case for an administrative law judge,” said Bill Reaves.

Bill Reaves is an Ashland attorney. He's practiced social security law for thirty years and agreed to share his expertise about the system. He says in the Huntington area, appeals cases, which are the majority of the cases, are usually processed in 10-12 months--well above the national average of about 24 months.

Reaves says of the 75%, on average, that are generally approved, there is a review process in place to provide quality assurance.

Judge Daugherty, told us he doesn't think there's anything wrong high approval percentage, but then stopped there.

“I don’t want to impede the process. So, I better not chat with you,” said Judge Daugherty.

The biggest concern with a judge potentially approving unworthy cases is that the social security system has long been said to be running out of money. If those who don't qualify are getting benefits, then that could mean many who really do qualify could eventually get left out in the cold.

The article also says there are strains on offices to increase their caseloads and some judges say it's more efficient and saves the government money to quickly approve cases instead of taking the time to really consider them.


WSAZ NewsChannel 3 645 Fifth Avenue Huntington, WV 25701 304-697-4780 WSAZ Charleston 111 Columbia Avenue Charleston, WV 25302 304-344-3521
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 122259399 - wsaz.com/a?a=122259399