MADISON, Wis. — While all Social Security Administration employees take mandatory training on their rights and protections against whistleblower retaliation, Ron Klym is out of work nearly four months after blowing the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse at the SSA.
Klym, a 16-year employee with the SSA’s Milwaukee Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, was dismissed in mid-August. His termination came about three months after Klym told Wisconsin Watchdog about due process concerns, particularly long case delays at the Milwaukee ODAR. Long before, Klym had reported misconduct and retaliation to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
For all of that, and for Christmas, Klym is out of work.
Other whistleblowers are a little more fortunate.
In August, Deborah Holland, a manager at the Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, was walked out of her office by two armed security guards, at the request of the local ODAR’s chief Administrative Law Judge Debra Meachum.
Holland, a long-time SSA employee who, like Klym, had exemplary performance reviews, was removed from her management position, stripped of all supervisory duties, and temporarily placed on administrative leave.
Holland was professionally relocated after blowing the whistle on sweeping allegations of “corruption and cover-up” at the Madison office and in SSA’s Region 5. Among the many accusations to come to light in Wisconsin’s Watchdog’s investigation into the agency is that an administrative law judge sexually harassed employees and Social Security disability claimants. The judge, who according to multiple sources has been removed from his position, is accused of writing grossly inappropriate comments about claimants whose cases came before him.
Other employees have alleged bribery, cronyism, fraud and a corrupt system of rewards and punishments by the former hearing office director, Laura Hodorowicz.
And now SSA employees must complete mandatory training under the Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act, popularly known as the No FEAR Act.
The 2002 law requires federal agencies to “be accountable for violations of antidiscrimination and whistleblower protection laws.”
The No FEAR Act mandates SSA employees receive training every two years, according to an internal memo obtained by Wisconsin Watchdog. This year employees are required to watch a 21-minute video on demand. After viewing the video, employees electronically certify that they have taken the mandatory training.
For the whistleblowers who believe they have been punished instead of protected, the training is an exercise in futility.
“I do not believe in the agency I work for anymore,” said one ODAR whistleblower who claims she has routinely been disciplined after testifying in a harassment case. “I am hoping with the new administration coming in January that they will fire the corrupt (SSA) commissioner and her cronies so we can get back to what this job is supposed to be about, and the reason why I took this position instead of making more in the private sector.”
The source said she wanted to help claimants with their cases, but management has its priorities mixed up.
“Just think, if they put all of this kind of effort they do to retaliate against whistleblowers, and anyone who disagrees with them and says something to actually help the public, can you imagine the good that could happen?” the ODAR insider said.
An SSA spokesman repeatedly has said the agency does not talk about personnel matters or ongoing investigations. There are several ongoing investigations into Region 5 ODAR offices.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has said whistleblower protection laws have been on the book for 100 years, and new laws constantly are being created. The problem, the senator said, is making sure federal agencies follow the laws and punish those who break them.
But who will protect the whistleblowers? Not the SSA, sources say.
“They are the judge and jury making determinations without any reference to legality or proper procedure,” Klym said in August of SSA’s administrative staff.
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