United States District Judge Amul Thapar ruled on Wednesday, October 12 that the Social Security Administration violated the due process rights of Kentucky resident Amy Jo Hicks. Hicks was represented by Kentucky attorney Eric Conn, who conspired to defraud the government of $600 million in federal disability payments.
The Social Security Administration cancelled the $800-per-month benefits owed to Hicks and refused to let the agency review her case again.
In a 33-page order, Thapar said, “If the government threw Amy Jo Hicks in jail because she was a member of al Qaeda, she would get a chance to challenge that factual assertion before a neutral arbiter. If the government fired her because she lied on an employment form, she would get a chance to challenge that factual assertion before a neutral arbiter. But when the government redetermined her right to disability payments — and categorically excluded some of her medical evidence because it had ‘reason to believe’ the evidence was fraudulent — she never got a chance to challenge that factual assertion before anyone.”
Ned Pillersdorf, Hicks’ legal counsel, said the decision was a welcome development, noting “It is wonderful precedent.” Thapar said when it comes to the SSA’s internal regulations, administrative law judges that handle redetermination hearings “must simply pretend that the evidence no longer exists.” Because of this practice, Hicks “was left without much evidence at all” in her case.
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