A Social Security Disability Administrative Law Judge appears to have been suspended in the wake of a scandal involving allegations so sexism and bigotry. News reports indicate that the the Office of the Inspector General has begun an investigation into the Madison, Wisconsin Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, particularly of ALJ John Pleuss. Judge Pleuss has allegedly engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment against his staff and made inappropriate comments about claimants who have appeared before him.
According to Watchdog.org, in recent days, Judge Pleuss' hearings have been cancelled amid the Inspector General's Investigation. See Sources: Social Security judge suspended in wake of Madison scandal By M.D. Kittle / June 16, 2016 Madison ODAR director Laura Hodorowicz has also been out of the office, fostering speculation that she has been suspended also.
According to reports, employees at the Madison ODAR have blown the whistle at what they claim is a "culture of corruption and cover-up" at their office. In fact, someone within the office has leaked some of the notes taken by Judge Pleuss during hearings. These notes reveal a pattern of gender discrimination and bigotry against claimants. Some of the notes allegedly written by Judge Pleuss state:
“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.”U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. has taken an active role in this controversy and has asked Social Security Commissioner, Carolyn Colvin for her agency's unfettered cooperation in this matter.
“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 another document, Pleuss wrote, “I’ll pay this lady when hell freezes over!” (See article from Watcdog.org)
As this controversy escalates, one must wonder whether the SSA is going to follow the same hard line approach that it has used in cases of alleged corruption where claimants were granted benefits. For example, in cases involving alleged corruption in Kentucky and Puerto Rico, the SSA suspended benefits to claimants even before the allegations of corruption had been substantiated. Eventually, claimants in Puerto Rico and Kentucky were required to go through a new hearing process in order to re-determine whether they could receive disability benefits. In light of this harsh stance by the Agency, claimants who received unfavorable decisions from Judge Pleuss have every right to demand that they be given a new opportunity to present their case at a new hearing before a different Administrative Law Judge.