It has been three weeks since the 10/6 airing of “Disability USA” by CBS “60 Minutes”. In my prior pre-airing blog post I warned that journalist Steve Kroft’s segment was likely to be biased and thin on meaningful analysis.The report was even worse than I had feared.
Much of what is wrong with journalism today is the wide spread use of inference. How responsible would it be, for example, to report that “some say” I beat my wife on a regular basis if there is somebody somewhere who believes that? Similarly Steve Kroft reports that “some say” the social security disability system is a “secret welfare system” that it is part of the “disability-industrial complex”. He then noted the rise of disability recipients, alleging without any basis in fact that lawyer involvement is the reason more Americans are receiving social security disability while showing the tackiest of social security disability attorney ads.
Finally, “60 Minutes” focuses on a very disturbing relationship between attorney Eric Conn in Kentucky and ALJ David B. Daughtery. 60 Minutes laid in waiting in attorney Conn’s parking lot for its timeworn “ambush” style of journalism, embarrassing the attorney in his refusal to comment on an ongoing investigation – a fact 60 Minutes was doubtlessly aware of.
60 Minutes alleges collusion between attorney Conn and ALJ Daughtery. The day following the 60 Minutes broadcast the senate conducted an inquiry of the relationship between attorney Conn and ALJ Daughtery, and while attorney Conn took the 5th, ALJ Daughtery shockingly left the senate without testifying. I told my wife that day, nobody refuses to testify before Congress, and that in my opinion ALJ Daughtery was likely to take his own life.
Apparently on 10/18 ALJ Duaghtery did in fact attempt to take his own life.
There appears little doubt that there is likely criminal and fraudulent conduct by ALJ Daughtery and attorney Conn. So what is my problem with the 60 Minutes program highlighting it? Here they are as briefly as possible:
- To air a segment on the social security disability program in general, and then quickly focus on one exceptional and isolated situation of suspicious behavior is to suggest that the entire social security disability program is rife with fraud and cirminal conduct. This is simply not the case.
- The program suggests that attorneys are the reason the program has grown, and that attorneys are getting rich in the process. Attorney Conn is the third highest grossing social security disability attorney in the county. And while I do not defend attorney Conn, since it appears he has earned his fees through misconduct, 60 Minutes did not note that attorney office receipts are all paid to the law office through the attorney. A social security disability attorney may “make” hundreds of thousands a year, much of which may go to pay staff, staff benefits and insurance, and advertising and marketing costs. I think it takes a lot of brass for journalist Steve Kroft to criticise anyone as over paid: he has an estimated net worth of $8 million with an annual salary of 2 million dollars. Does anyone think Steve Kroft has to pay any of his staffers (who probably do most of the work on his stories) from his $2 million a year? If we are going to play the “Eat-The-Rich” game does anyone really think Steve Kroft is worth $2 million a year?