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Baldwin joins Johnson in calling for ‘immediate action’ on Social Security misconduct claims

By   /   July 26, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 22 of 61 in the series Deadly Delays

MADISON, Wis. – Investigators have been asking a lot of questions about allegations of misconduct and retaliation in the Social Security Administration’s offices of disability claims review.

And Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, has joined her Republican colleague in the Senate in calling for “immediate action” on addressing whistleblower accusations of bad behavior at the Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

Sources tell Wisconsin Watchdog that SSA’s Office of Inspector General is conducting a thorough investigation of conduct complaints, particularly those allegations surrounding Administrative Law Judge John Pleuss and Hearing Office Director Laura Hodorowicz.

As Wisconsin Watchdog first reported, Pleuss is accused of sexually harassing staff members and disability claimants. Wisconsin Watchdog last month obtained Pleuss’ case notes in which he described claimants with adjectives like “buxom,” “cute,” and, in the case of a black woman appearing before him, “gorilla-like.”

Multiple whistleblowers accuse Pleuss of inappropriately touching and addressing them, and deciding disability cases based on the physical attractiveness of claimants.

“There is a culture of corruption and cover-up, and that goes all the way to the top,” an ODAR employee with knowledge of the situation told Wisconsin Watchdog in early June. The staff member spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

RELATED: ‘Culture of corruption and cover-up’ alleged in Madison Social security office 

Watchdog.org file photo

‘TROUBLING’: Sen. Tammy Baldwin is calling on the Social Security Administration to immediately act on ‘troubling’ allegations of misconduct in the Social Security Administration.

Sources also claim Hodorowicz and other administrators have retaliated against them, and have effectively bribed employees, rewarding them for their loyalty and silence.

U.S. Sen Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, on June 14 sent a letter to Carolyn Colvin, informing the SSA’s acting commissioner that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has opened an inquiry into reports of misconduct and retaliation in both the Madison and Milwaukee ODAR facilities. Johnson is chairman of that panel.

Committee staff members say they are waiting for the Social Security Administration to turn over the requested documents and accompanying information.

In a letter sent out last week, Baldwin said her office was contacted by a Madison ODAR employee in September 2015. The senator said she put the whistleblower in touch with the Office of Special Counsel, then followed up with the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General in February because “the employee had not yet received confirmation of a formal complaint filed with the OIG hotline in September 2015.”

“Thus, I find it troubling that no apparent disciplinary action has been taken over 9 months,” Baldwin wrote. “Since then, media reports have echoed serious allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, as well as waste, fraud and abuse.”

She said that she was particularly troubled by the allegations surrounding Pleuss.

“His hearing notes reveal overtly racist and sexist descriptions of claimants, which I find abhorrent,” Baldwin wrote. “In light of this information, I am requesting that all of the judge’s previous cases be reviewed to ensure his personal views did not adversely affect his rulings.”

An attorney who represents claimants in the Madison office told Wisconsin Watchdog he is seeking review of all of his cases before Pleuss.

Baldwin wants to know how many cases Pleuss decided over his tenure with Social Security Administration, and she is demanding a “full report” of findings.

“In light of an apparent lack of disciplinary action since my previous correspondence, I believe it is time for you to intervene and ensure that the Madison ODAR office is a safe work environment, free from inappropriate behavior, that provides the highest-quality service to my constituents,” Baldwin wrote to Colvin.

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.