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Investigation into troubled Social Security offices in a ‘holding pattern’

By   /   October 4, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 40 of 61 in the series Deadly Delays

MADISON, Wis. – Federal investigations into scandal-plagued Midwest Social Security Administration offices are ongoing, sources say, although things appear to be in a “holding pattern.”

In a recent letter to whistleblowers at the SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, an aide to U.S. Sen. Baldwin, D-Madison, acknowledged as much.

“I appreciate that it must be difficult to be in a holding pattern, but that seems to be where we are at until the OIG (Office of Inspector General) investigation is complete and the report and recommendations are issued,” wrote Sarah Benedict Anstaett, Baldwin’s constituent services director.

A source with knowledge of the situation tells Wisconsin Watchdog that the SSA’s Office of Inspector General has not been at the Madison ODAR this week. Agents have spent several weeks at the troubled office this past summer, interviewing staff and managers and digging through documents and electronic communications, sources have said.

The facility has a new hearing office director, replacing – at least for now – Laura Hodorowicz, who is at the center of allegations of misconduct, corruption and cover-up. Hodorowicz, sources, say, continues to telework from her home, but not in her former capacity. Wayne Gentz, a group manager who is accused of misconduct and intimidation, appears to be working off-site, sources said.

RELATED: Whistleblower walked out of troubled Social Security office

Watchdog.org file photo

UPDATE: The federal probe into Midwest Social Security Administration offices continues, sources say. It is unclear when the Office of Inspector General will conclude its investigation into allegations of misconduct and retaliation.

Administrative Law Judge John Pleuss continues to sign on the Madison office network, one source said, but he is no longer on the roster of employees. What that means is not clear. A spokesman from the SSA’s regional office in Chicago repeatedly has said the agency cannot discuss personnel matters.

Pluess, who is accused of sexual harassment of staff and of making inappropriate comments about disability benefits claimants, remains locked out of cases, an insider said.

Whistleblowers allege Pleuss has determined whether to award benefits based on a “claimant’s breast size and sex appeal.”

In June, Wisconsin Watchdog obtained internal documents showing what employees have described as “highly inappropriate” comments Pleuss has made about claimants appearing before him.

“Young, white (female); attractive brunette,” Pleuss wrote under “Initial Observations”in official hearing notes. The claimants’ names and other personal information have been redacted.

“Young, white (female); long brown hair; attractive; looks innocent,” the ALJ wrote.

He described another claimant as “buxom,” and noted that a “young, white (woman) looks like a man.”

“Obese, young, white (female) skimpy black top,” he wrote of another claimant.

“Very black, African looking (female),” the ALJ wrote, and parenthetically he added,“(actually a gorilla-like appearance).”

In one document, Pleuss wrote, “I’ll pay this lady when hell freezes over!”

In her complaints to the OIG, former group manager and whistleblower Deborah Holland expressed concerns about evidence tampering by Madison ODAR managers and staff. Holland was removed from her office in August and stripped of her managerial duties. She and other whistleblowers claim they have been repeatedly retaliated against at the hands of corrupt administrators. Holland is teleworking for the Chicago region headquarters while the investigation continues.

“There is an abundance of evidence to be found, and no doubt some that has already been destroyed,” she wrote in her report to OIG. “Whenever a new allegation or complaint arises, Ms. Hodorowicz directs people to delete emails, shred documents, and get rid of other evidence that could be used against her.”

What happens next is up to the federal agencies currently investigating – the OIG and the Office of Special Counsel.

The federal agencies do not comment on ongoing investigations.

Ron Klym, a whistleblower at the Milwaukee ODAR facility who was fired in August, said the OSC is working with him on his case. Six weeks after he was fired, Klym has yet to receive compensation coming to him, he said. Klym was the first whistleblower to go public, alleging misconduct, incompetence and retaliation at the Milwaukee office.

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


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.