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Social Security whistleblowers ‘coming out of the woodwork’

By   /   May 19, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 8 of 61 in the series Deadly Delays

MILWAUKEE – In the wake of Wisconsin Watchdog’s investigation into allegations of incompetence, misconduct, and retaliation in Social Security disability appeals offices, several employees have taken their complaints to a Senate committee led by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.

An official with knowledge of the complaints said the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by the Oshkosh Republican, has received emails and other contacts from “certain people” inside the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

The initial complaints came from an employee inside the Milwaukee office following Wisconsin Watchdog’s opening investigative report that found some claimants waiting more than 1,000 days for an appeals decision on their disability benefits claim.

Following Wednesday’s story of a whistleblower in the Madison ODAR office, the committee has received more specific complaints about retaliation against employees, the source said.

RELATED: Whistleblower: ‘I want to do my work without fear of retaliation’

Photo by amensupport.org

PUSHING BACK: Several employees inside Wisconsin Social Security disability claims appeals offices have taken their allegations of misconduct and retaliation to a Senate committee.

Committee staff members sent the latest Watchdog piece to SSA administrators hoping they will “cooperate,” the source said. To date, the agency has been less than cooperative.

“This is an ongoing process, and they are not always as forthcoming as we’d like them to be,” the source said. “Hopefully with your continued reporting, this is an issue they can’t duck.”

A Senate committee member said officials there are working with the Office of Special Counsel on “multiple whistleblower retaliation claims.” The committee continues to request information from the SSA.

The whistleblower in the Madison office claims management retaliated against her after she was called to testify in a misconduct case. The incident involved “inappropriate behavior” by an administrative law judge, she said.

“They are so corrupt. It’s absolutely horrible,” said the woman, a lead case technician in the Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

She spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing more retribution from her supervisors. While she said recounting her particular experiences will more than likely betray her identity anyway, the ODAR case worker insisted she has had enough.

“I’m at point where they don’t care about me, I don’t see why I’m protecting them. This is my last resort,” she said. “I want to do my work without fear of retaliation.”

She said she has contacted the Senate committee.

“I forwarded my information to them and I got an email back from them. They said people are coming out of the woodwork with their complaints (about ODAR) following your story,” the whistleblower said.

Ronald Klym, a long-time senior legal assistant in the Milwaukee ODAR office, alleges he has been retaliated against by supervisors for going public with his charges of incompetence and misconduct in the agency.

The federal employee, who has worked for SSA for 16 years, provided Wisconsin Watchdog with documents showing extremely long wait times for claimants appealing their denied applications for benefits.

Doug Nguyen, SSA regional spokesman, in a previous story said the agency acknowledges that Milwaukee ODAR has a “high average processing time for disability appeal hearings, and we are working to address the issue.”

Beyond the delays is what Klym calls the “shell game,” the wholesale transferring of cases to other parts of the country by administrators to make the Milwaukee office’s numbers look better than they are.

The Madison office whistleblower confirmed Klym’s allegations, saying at one point she saw 2,000 cases from the Milwaukee office handed off to the Oak Brook operation.

Nguyen has said he cannot comment on internal personnel matters.

Part of 61 in the series Deadly Delays
  1. Deadly Delay: Whistleblower alleges misconduct, incompetence in Social Security office
  2. Johnson seeks answers to Social Security whistleblower’s charges
  3. Social Security disability program has plenty of problems elsewhere
  4. Social Security whistleblower placed on administrative leave
  5. Social Security disability agency has history of punishing whistleblowers
  6. Senator to Social Security Administration official: ‘I would say the system is rigged’
  7. Whistleblower: ‘I want to do my work without fear of retaliation’
  8. Social Security whistleblowers ‘coming out of the woodwork’
  9. Social Security whistleblower suspended after going public with complaints
  10. Social Security whistleblower questioned by investigators after going public
  11. Social Security whistleblower now faces firing
  12. Social Security officials not answering questions about whistleblower retaliation
  13. ‘Culture of corruption and cover-up’ alleged in Madison Social Security office
  14. Ron Johnson: We’re tracking down abuse allegations in Social Security agency
  15. Senate committee presses for answers from troubled Social Security Administration
  16. Sources: Social Security judge suspended in wake of Madison scandal
  17. Attorney seeks appeal of decisions by Social Security judge accused of ‘sexy’ comments
  18. Social Security appeals judge pleads guilty to retaliation charge
  19. More retaliation despite investigation, Social Security office sources say
  20. Openly gay whistleblower at Social Security office claims intimidation, retaliation
  21. Wheels of justice turn frustratingly slow for Social Security whistleblowers
  22. Baldwin joins Johnson in calling for ‘immediate action’ on Social Security misconduct claims
  23. Documents: Social Security judge wrote claimant was ‘rode hard and put away wet’
  24. Social Security judge investigated for harassment heading back to hearings
  25. Social Security judge accused of misconduct refuses to step aside, sources say
  26. Whistleblower at scandal-plagued Social Security office seeks restraining order against manager
  27. Whistleblower report alleges widespread waste, fraud, abuse at Social Security office
  28. Sen. Johnson to Social Security commissioner: Retaliation will not be tolerated
  29. Baldwin warns Social Security Administration not to retaliate
  30. Social Security Administration fires whistleblower
  31. Who is protecting Social Security whistleblowers?
  32. Sources: Social Security judge accused of racial, sexual remarks removed from hearings
  33. Social Security office director removed from Madison facility, sources say
  34. Senate committee probe into Social Security whistleblower retaliation continues
  35. Madison Social Security office like ‘giant dysfunctional family,’ source says
  36. Damage spreads at scandal-plagued Social Security office
  37. Fired Social Security whistleblower gets no help from federal whistleblower protector
  38. One month later, Social Security whistleblower still without job, pay, answers
  39. Federal agents stepping up investigation into troubled Social Security offices
  40. Investigation into troubled Social Security offices in a ‘holding pattern’
  41. Recent weeks bring shake-up at scandal-plagued Social Security offices
  42. Top judges resign at troubled Social Security Chicago headquarters
  43. Social Security chief judge retiring amid cloud of scandal
  44. Troubled Social Security disability claims agency promotes ‘positive organization culture’
  45. Senate inquiry into scandal-plagued Social Security offices plods along
  46. Social Security whistleblower: ‘Everything has been compromised’
  47. Sources: Social Security judge accused of sexual harassment removed from Madison office
  48. Fired Social Security whistleblower won’t be taking whistleblower protection training
  49. Letter: Social Security judge under fire granted power to decide
  50. Sources: Social Security judge accused of deciding cases on sex appeal retires
  51. Johnson seeks GAO review of alleged Social Security ‘shell game’
  52. Social Security judge demanded $65,000 expanded bathrooms
  53. Investigation finds abuse, law-breaking, no retaliation at Madison Social Security office
  54. Report: Social Security managers gambled, watched Packers at Lambeau on taxpayer dime
  55. Inspector General releases major findings of probe into troubled Social Security office
  56. Social Security whistleblower waiting for answers in privacy breach case
  57. A whistleblower’s story: Paying the price for shining a light
  58. Fired SSA employee featured in Watchdog investigation is ‘Whistleblower of the Year’
  59. Social Security whistleblower calls out agency, media in receiving award from journalists
  60. SSA whistleblowers ask, where’s the justice?
  61. Probes into troubled Social Security offices crawling along

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M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.