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Social Security whistleblower: ‘Everything has been compromised’

By   /   November 16, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 46 of 61 in the series Deadly Delays

MADISON, Wis. – As multiple federal investigations continue into the Social Security Administration’s troubled Chicago Region, allegations of a new form of retaliation are surfacing.

And this time the whistleblower retaliation, sources say, is crossing over federal agencies.

A whistleblower at the SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review  tells Wisconsin Watchdog she has had her Veterans Affairs records compromised and made public to fellow ODAR employees.

The source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said a fellow employee in the office obtained her VA records – including military service, medical and other personal information.

“Everything has been compromised,” the whistleblower said.

She said the co-worker got the records from a friend who works in the VA system.

“He was bragging about it and discussing it with a group of (staff members),” said the source, who learned of the alleged records breach from sources close to the situation.

The co-worker allegedly was upset that the whistleblower was quoted in Watchdog.org’s investigative series about widespread allegations of misconduct and retaliation at ODAR facilities. She said the co-worker relayed information that he would have only known by reading the personal file.

“This particular person does not like me. I don’t know why. I’m okay with that. You can hate someone, but you can’t do stuff like that,” the whistleblower said.

 

Photo by Defendmagazine.org

COMPROMISED: A Social Security Administration whistleblower claims her personal medical records were obtained by an irate colleague in retaliation for bringing to light allegations of misconduct.

The whistleblower contacted the VA’s privacy officer,  and the agency was following up with an IT investigation to determine who accessed the whistleblower’s records without her consent.

“He emailed me and told me he was having both the local and IT people run some type of record scan all the way back to April to find out who had access to my file.” The investigation is expected to take up to 10 days, the source said. The privacy officer also promised to secure the documents so no unauthorized person could obtain them.

The whistleblower also filed a complaint with the SSA’s Office of Inspector General.

Medical records are considered confidential information under federal privacy rules established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). SSA and VA employees are strictly prohibited, on threat of job loss, from releasing personal information.

Another whistleblower, Ron Klym, who was a long-time senior case technician at the Milwaukee ODAR, said there is concern that other staff members may have had their medical records compromised.

An SSA spokesman did not return an email seeking comment. SSA repeatedly has said it cannot comment on personnel matters or ongoing investigations. The VA’s Office of Inspector General could not be reached for comment.

Klym was fired in August after going public with myriad accusations of misconduct and retaliation at the Milwaukee ODAR. Klym, in Wisconsin Watchdog’s series, “Deadly Delays,” provided documentation of hundreds of long delayed Social Security disability claims cases, some in the system for 800 or more days. Attorneys told Wisconsin Watchdog that some claimants have died waiting for a decision. Klym asserts the delays are a violation of claimants’ due process rights.

Klym claims his position was terminated because he shed light on waste, fraud and abuse within the federal agency.

This week he sent a letter to SSA Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin asking that he be reinstated immediately while multiple investigations into ODAR continue. He said Colvin did not respond. Klym has asked for help from his congresswoman, Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee. He said he has received silence in response.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, launched an inquiry into the Social Security Administration in June. Johnson is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Five months later, the committee still is waiting for SSA to fulfill information requests. Committee insiders say staff members are trying to make sense out of the unspecified emails and other documents SSA has sent thus far.

RELATED: Senate inquiry into scandal-plagued Social Security offices plods along

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, has warned the SSA not to retaliate against whistleblowers. She has written at least two sternly worded letters about her concerns regarding sexual harassment, retaliation and other misconduct at the Madison and Milwaukee ODAR operations.

Meanwhile, the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General continues its investigations into the agency. A source with knowledge of the situation tells Wisconsin Watchdog that the OIG is expected to wrap up its probes sometime after the first of the year.

“OSC (the Office of Special Counsel) is heavily involved, too,” the source said.

The source says she continues to receive “veiled threats” from SSA officials.

Just what the whistleblowers’ status is remains “murky.”

“No one seems to know what that is,” one source said.

The OIG and the OSC do not comment on investigations.

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.