MADISON, Wis. – Federal investigations into alleged misconduct and retaliation at Social Security disability claims review offices in the Midwest are intensifying, according to multiple sources.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said she has received a letter from the Social Security Administration confirming ongoing investigations at the scandal-plagued Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Madison and Milwaukee.
Agents from the SSA’s Office of Inspector General have been investigating whistleblower complaints of corruption, harassment and retaliation at the Madison office for several weeks. Sources say OIG has been at the Milwaukee office in recent days, looking into reports of extraordinarily long case delays and manipulation of files.
The federal Office of Special Counsel, charged with protecting whistleblowers, also has been reviewing allegations of misconduct at the offices.
In a press release, Baldwin said she has been working on behalf of ODAR whistleblowers since September 2015 to “shine light on serious allegations of wrongdoing, harassment and retaliation” at the Social Security facilities.
“Now, the Social Security Administration is taking those allegations seriously and a number of investigations and reviews have been initiated,” Baldwin said. “We eagerly await the completion of ongoing investigations by the Office of Special Counsel and Office of the Inspector General so that the Social Security Administration can take appropriate action to ensure these offices are both safe places to work for employees and provide the highest-quality of service to taxpayers.”
When the investigations will be completed is not clear. The federal agencies do not comment on ongoing probes.
But an ODAR employee with knowledge of the situation said several OIG agents were in Madison this week, while other agents questioned the hearing office director at the Oak Brook, Ill., Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. That facility has been under fire for allegations of harassment and retaliation.
An employee at the Orland Park, Ill., ODAR has filed multiple complaints alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation, intimidation and retaliation.
Laura Hodorowicz, director of the Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, and Wayne Gentz, a group supervisor, were removed from the building last month. Sources say the managers remain on the SSA payroll but continue to work off campus.
Whistleblowers have accused Gentz of intimidation, harassment, retaliation and fraud.
Hodorowicz is accused of leading a “culture of corruption and cover-up” at the Madison office, a culture that whistleblowers allege “goes all the way to the top.”
In June, an ODAR employee who spoke on condition of anonymity said Hodorowicz has long been fond of making “dirty backroom deals,” offering “cooperative” employees perks in the form of financial benefits and special privileges to maintain their loyalty and above all — silence — about misconduct in the office.
Administrative Law Judge John Pleuss’ hearings have been reassigned and he has been removed from the full docket of hearings and claims review. Pleuss, accused of sexually harassing staff and writing sexually and racially charged remarks about claimants, is not listed on the calendar through the rest of the year, according to ODAR sources.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, chaired by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, launched an inquiry into the ODAR offices in June.
Since Johnson’s letter announcing the formal inquiry, however, one whistleblower has been fired, another walked out of the office by armed guards and stripped of her management duties, and several others, according to sources, placed on performance monitoring.
Ron Klym, a whistleblower and 16-year employee at the Milwaukee Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, said the decision to fire him during an ongoing investigation is clear-cut interference with that investigation. He remains out of a job.
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