In May of 2016, Wisconsin Watchdog broke news of a scandal at the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) in Madison and Milwaukee. Reporter Matt Kittle uncovered serious allegations of abuse, mismanagement and harassment. Shockingly, he discovered that some claimants waited more than 1,000 days for their cases to be heard, shedding new light on the SSA’s million-plus case deadlydelaysbacklog.

Wisconsin Watchdog’s coverage has inspired SSA whistleblowers across the country to go public with their complaints and share their stories with us. Sadly, that hasn’t stopped the agency from retaliating against them, and in some cases it has intensified.

Administrative Law Judge John Pleuss is accused of deciding disability cases based on the appearance and race of claimants and of making highly inappropriate and sexually charged comments about them. Documents obtained first by Watchdog show the judge using terms such as “cute,” “buxom,” and “gorilla-like,” to describe claimants.

Surprisingly, Pleuss was able to continue deciding cases after these accusations surfaced, until he was eventually removed from hearing cases. In November he was escorted from ODAR offices and later announced his retirement, keeping his taxpayer-funded pension.

Our breaking coverage has led to U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing directly from employees at ODAR, resulting in federal briefings by SSA officials about the million-plus case backlog plaguing the disability claim system.

The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General has also conducted an investigation following the revelations reported by Wisconsin Watchdog, but while that inquiry has concluded, bureau chief Matt Kittle continues to investigate the story and expose new details.

Key Articles

whistle-blowers2-15/4/16 – Deadly Delay: Whistleblower alleges misconduct, incompetence in Social Security office
5/26/16 – Social Security whistleblower questioned by investigators after going public
5/27/16 – Social Security whistleblower now faces firing
6/10/16 – ‘Culture of corruption and cover-up’ alleged in Madison Social Security office
6/14/16 – Senate committee presses for answers from troubled Social Security Administration
6/20/16 – Attorney seeks appeal of decisions by Social Security judge accused of ‘sexy’ comments
6/23/16 – More retaliation despite investigation, Social Security office sources say
7/26/16 – Baldwin joins Johnson in calling for ‘immediate action’ on SSA misconduct claims
8/23/16 – Sources: Social Security judge accused of racial, sexual remarks removed from hearings
8/24/16 – Social Security office director removed from Madison facility, sources say
11/21/16 – Sources: Social Security judge accused of sexual harassment removed from Madison office
1/11/17 – Social Security judge accused of deciding cases on sex appeal retires
2/2/17 – Investigation finds abuse, law-breaking, no retaliation at Madison Social Security office
2/23/17 – Inspector General releases major findings of probe into troubled Social Security office
3/8/17 – A whistleblower’s story: Paying the price for shining a light
3/8/17 – Fired SSA employee featured in Watchdog investigation is ‘Whistleblower of the Year’

View all articles in the Deadly Delays at the SSA series

About the Author

M.D. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of radio, newspaper and online journalism. In July 2011, he joined as bureau chief for Wisconsin. Beyond being published in Wisconsin’s daily newspapers and in multimedia news outlets, Kittle’s work has appeared on Fox News, and in Human Events, Reason Magazine, Newsmax and Town Hall. His special investigation into a politically charged John Doe probe, “Wisconsin’s Secret War,” was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze. Kittle has made several appearances on Fox News, including “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” His resume includes multiple awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, Wisconsin Broadcast Association and other journalism associations. Contact Kittle at [email protected]

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