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Jul 21, 2006

An Unknown Hero And A Pariah

For several years Social Security has been working on straightening out what it refers to the Special Disability Workload (SDW), a complicated mess affecting benefit payments to tens of thousands of disabled individuals, many of whom were badly underpaid. What has not been revealed to the public was how this came to light. The Los Angeles Times reports on Ronald Cooley, the Social Security employee who found the problem, or set of problems, and forced the agency to begin the process of making things right. Cooley has been recognized already for his achievement, with $45,000 of cash rewards. Social Security Commissioner Barnhard has recommended him for $32,000 more, but the Office of Personnel Management is blocking the payment -- prompting Cooley to sue, but that is not his only problem. Cooley reports that he is now regarded as a pariah by many at Social Security. The L.A. Times quotes Cooley as saying:
Social Security officials have made it very clear that they don't want to hear any more from me about agency mistakes ... When I bring up new groups of severely underpaid — and in some cases severely overpaid — beneficiaries, they ignore or dismiss my information. I have definitely been frozen out.

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