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SSA whistleblowers ask, where’s the justice?

By   /   April 5, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 60 of 61 in the series Deadly Delays

MADISON, Wis. – Now that a federal investigation has found multiple examples of misconduct and abuse at a Wisconsin Social Security Administration office, some employees who blew the whistle have one question: When will justice be served?

Watchdog.org file photo

WHISTLEBLOWER QUESTION: Two months after federal investigators substantiated many of their misconduct allegations at a Madison Social Security Administration office, whistleblowers want to know what, if anything, will happen to the wrongdoers.

In February, SSA’s Office of the Inspector General released a fact sheet on its lengthy investigation into the Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. Among other incidents of misconduct, investigators found that the director of the scandal-plagued hearing office used official leave and sick leave to gamble at an area casino, while a group supervisor got paid a full day’s wage to watch a Green Bay Packers football game at Lambeau Field.

The fact sheet states the law was broken at the Madison ODAR facility and that managers held whistleblowers to significantly stricter standards than other staff.

“An Office of Inspector General investigation found serious problems, including time and attendance fraud, and showed that two whistleblowers in the office experienced disparate treatment from other workers,” U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson wrote SSA’s acting commissioner. “I request information about how SSA will address these problems.”

As of last week, the agency had yet to comply, once again asking for more time to respond.

Johnson is chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which in June launched an inquiry into the Madison and Milwaukee ODAR offices.

OIG investigators found that the employee who took in the Packers game on taxpayer time, former Madison ODAR group supervisor Wayne Gentz according to multiple sources close to the situation, “violated federal law, federal regulations, and the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.”

Former Hearing Office Director Laura Hodorowicz “used official and sick leave to gamble at an area casino,” Johnson wrote. “The OIG found this conduct violated federal law and federal regulations.”

Hodorowicz, accused of leading a “culture of corruption and cover-up” at the Madison office, was removed from the office and relieved of her management duties in August amid the OIG investigation.

Gentz, too, was removed from the office and his position.

Both remain on the agency payroll, working for SSA’s Chicago-based Region 5 remotely from their homes, according to sources.

Meanwhile, whistleblowers claim they continue to be retaliated against, some forced to fight for telework accommodations necessitated by their declining health. Those health problems, they say, are directly related to the stress they have experienced in their long and painful whistleblower odyssey.

“Are they (Gentz and Hodorowicz) having to fight to work from home?  Laura should have actually been fired but there she is, sitting in the comfort of her own home, collecting six figures,” one SSA whistleblower said.

Asked about the status of the Madison ODAR managers, Doug Nguyen, SSA regional spokesman, said what he has often said, that the agency cannot comment on confidential personnel matters.

“The agency is committed to ensuring a workplace free of harassment and retaliation for all employees,” Nguyen said in an email response to Wisconsin Watchedog. “We are working proactively in that regard.”

Amid multiple federal investigations last fall, two top administrators for the Chicago region said they would be stepping down. They haven’t.

In October, it was announced that  Sherry D. Thompson, chief administrative law judge for SSA’s Region 5, and Assistant Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge John J. Rabaut would be resigning from their leadership positions at the end of 2016.

As of this week, Thompson and Rabaut remained at their posts. Nguyen did not comment on the administrators’ status.

At the time, Gregory Senden, a representative for the government union that represents many SSA employees, sent an email to several staff members advising of the changes.

“Hopefully the new leadership that is chosen will be effective and professional, and willing to work with AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees) to improve the morale of ODAR employees and improve service to the public that we serve,” Senden wrote in the email obtained by Wisconsin Watchdog.

RELATED: Read Wisconsin Watchdog’s series, Deadly Delays, here.

M.D. Kittle is bureau chief for Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]

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.