Decisions From Social Security Judges Often Have Frequent, Serious and Ignored Deficiencies, Appeals Court Says

7th Circuit judge reverses benefits denial,  and chastises Social Security process.

Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner had harsh words for the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Disability Adjudication And Review (ODAR) regarding Vocational Expert (VE) Testimony: clean up your act.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the denial of Anne Hill’s application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)  and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), finding the Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) credibility analysis was flawed.

Ms. Hill, 56, worked for more than 13 years at a steel factory where she had to carry steel sheets weighing up to 100 pounds. The manual labor took a toll on her body and she applied for disability benefits in 2011. Her physical issues included total hip replacement, knee pain, recommended total shoulder replacement, and severe physical limitations in the use of her left side.

Her daily activities included babysitting, but she was unable to lift the child, did chores and went to church, but was unable to sit or stand for long periods of time.

The VE in her case testified that she could work at jobs classified as light and unskilled, such as dealer account investigator or a counter clerk. The VE, using his own experience to opine on how Ms Hill’s issues with her left side would impact her ability to work, testified she could still perform sedentary jobs such as a registration clerk.

Using the five-step analysis for assessing disability, the ALJ concluded Hill was not disabled. The ALJ noted that Hill was not taking narcotic pain relievers, but Hill had testified that was because of her past alcohol addiction.  The judge reasoned Hill exaggerated her back pain because she hadn’t been diagnosed with certain conditions, but that conclusion is not supported by any medical evidence in the record.

“We are not confident that the ALJ would have reached the same conclusion about Hill’s credibility had the ALJ not inappropriately ‘played doctor,’ ignored possible explanations for Hill’s conservative treatment, and conflated a desire to work with the ability to do so. So the ALJ’s errors are not harmless,” Judge Anne Claire Williams wrote.

Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Posner wrote a concurring opinion in which he focused on “a persistent, serious and often ignored deficiency in opinions by the Administrative Law Judges of the Social Security Administration” in denying benefits.

He noted the issues regarding VE testimony concerning the number and types of jobs that an applicant deemed not to be totally disabled could perform.  It appears the VEs simply divide census data estimates on the number of jobs in a broad category that includes the narrow category of jobs that the applicant can perform, by the total number of narrow categories in the broad category.

The assumption is thus that every narrow category has the same number of jobs as every other narrow category within the broad category – a preposterous assumption, Posner wrote.

“In short, the vocational expert’s testimony was worthless – and this apart from the apparent arbitrariness of his numerology,” he continued. “It is time the Social Security Disability Office cleaned up its act.”

The case is Anne R. Hill v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, 15-1230.

(By Jennifer Nelson)

Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Posner in his concurring opinion made the point that he has noticed “a persistent, serious and often ignored deficiency in opinions by the Administrative Law Judges of the Social Security Administration” in denying benefits.

He stated that as fact. He did not offer or solicit any possible explanation for that fact. I submit that there is a probable easily explained reason for that fact. It is systemic. It could be remedied but at considerable expense. The SSA could hire only lawyers from the best law schools and pay them three times what the para-legal writers are receiving today. If only lawyers were writing SSA disability affirmations and the case load were reduced to a reasonable level, there would be a noticeable improvement in the quality of the denial decisions.

The hard truth is that SSA ALJs do not write their own decisions. They hold hearings and decide whether to pay or not to pay the claim. The decision is written by a staff writer who may not be a lawyer. The writers are often simply para-legal low level Government wage grade employees. Many para-legals have only completed a six month course at a junior college and received a para-legal certificate. Then through nepotism, favoritism, or affirmative action and luck they may find themselves at a Federal Agency writing Federal Court Decisions.

These writers do not have law degrees, but they are familiar with the SSA Regulations that pertain to disability evaluation. They simply choose which of the standard paragraphs in the SSA computer responds to each of the claimant’s allegations of symptoms and puts them into the decision. All of the parts of the decision are already written and are stored in the SSA computer.

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The Social Security Administration Must Follow Its Own Regulations

7th Circuit orders disability case back to administrative law judge

Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) Appeals Council (AC) did not consider new evidence when it was presented – despite its own regulations requiring it to do so – the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals sent a disability insurance benefits case back to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for further proceedings.

At the time of the hearing on Angela Farrell’s application for disability benefits, she was married with two children and extremely overweight. She suffered from multiple issues, including anxiety, insomnia, fibromyalgia, and plantar fasciitis. Her initial application was denied, but the Appeals Council remanded her case for reconsideration. On remand, the ALJ again ruled against her, in part because of Farrell’s failure to establish definitively that she suffered from fibromyalgia.

This time, the AC affirmed the ALJ’s decision, despite new evidence before the AC that confirmed Farrell’s fibromyalgia. The District Court also affirmed.

In addition to finding the Appeals Council didn’t follow its own regulations that require it to consider “new and material evidence,” the 7th Circuit found several other aspects of the ALJ’s decision independently require correction, including that the ALJ “failed to grapple properly with the competing medical opinions” in considering Farrell’s application.

Her Treating Physician (TP), Dr. Sarah Beyer, recorded Farrell suffered from several conditions and alluded to the possibility of Farrell suffering from fibromyalgia.

The other Consultative Examining (CE) Physicians who reviewed Farrell’s file as part of the application evaluation process believe that Farrell only had “moderate difficulties” or “mild restrictions on Average Daily Activity Level (ADL).” One doctor testified there was no evidence of a confirmed diagnosis of fibromyalgia or anything that would give rise to arthritic pain.

The 7th Circuit concluded in Angela M. Farrell v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, 11-3589,  that the ALJ’s residual functional capacity determination for Farrell improperly discounted the Treating Physician, Dr. Beyer’s medical opinions and that the RFC determination was based on an incomplete assessment of the record.

The judges sent the case back to the ALJ for further proceedings. REMANDED back to SSA ALJ.

This is the Case of  Angela M. Farrell v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, 11-3589.

Categories: Social Security Benefits | Leave a comment

SSA Claimant Is Disabled and Cannot Work If There Are No Jobs Available


The Commissioner  the Social Security Administration (SSA) has established a five step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a person is disabled.

  1. First, it is determined whether the person is engaging in substantial gainful employment (SGA). Is he/she working? If so disability benefits are denied.
  1. Second, if the person is not so engaged, it is determined whether the person has a medically severe impairment or combination of impairments. If the person does not have a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments, benefits are denied.
  1. Third, if the person has a severe impairment, it is determined whether the impairment meets or equals one of a number of “listed impairments”. If the impairment meets or equals a “Listed Impairment”, the person is conclusively presumed to be disabled.
  1. Fourth, if the impairment does not meet or equal a “Listed Impairment”, it is determined whether the impairment prevents the person from performing Past Relevant Work (PRW). If the person can perform PRW, benefits are denied.
  1. Fifth, if the person cannot perform PRW, the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner of Social Security to show/prove that the person is able to perform any other kind of work.

The person is entitled to disability benefits only if he is unable to perform other work. (20 CFR Sec. 404.1520; Bowens v. Yuckert, 482 US 137, 140-142 (1987).

Step 4 explores a person’s ability to perform work you have done in the past 15 years, despite their physical or mental impairments. 

 It does not matter at Step 4 if the claimant’s former employer would not hire them, or if the place where the person worked is no longer in business, or if all those jobs are now done in China.

 If the Social Security Administration finds that the claimant can still perform his past relevant work, benefits are denied. The process proceeds to the 5th and final step.

Step 5 determines what other work, if any, a person can perform.

The claimant has the burden of proof and the burden of going forward with the evidence at Steps 1 through 4.

At Step 5 the Burden of Proof shifts to the Commissioner of Social Security to prove that there is other work that the claimant can do despite mental and physical limitations.

The Social Security Administration considers the claimant’s age, education, work experience and physical/mental condition to make this determination.

The  ALJ can use Medical-Vocational guidelines or “grids,” found at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, at the fifth step of the disability determination after the claimant has been found not to meet the requirements of a listed impairment, but found nevertheless incapable of performing past relevant work.

The ALJ will determine what the claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is. That means, considering all of his/her limitations what is the claimant still capable of doing in the workplace? What is the heaviest weight he/she can lift? How long can he/she stand without a break? How long can he/she sit without a break? What level of manual dexterity is he/she capable of?


A Vocational Expert witness (VE) may be called to testify to determine his/her vocational profile and whether their skills are transferrable based on the Medical-Vocational Grid (20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2). The VE will classify the claimant’s past relevant work according to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). The VE will also give an opinion concerning whether there are there a significant number of jobs available in the local or national economy that he/she could apply for? A claimant cannot work if there are no jobs or a significant number of jobs available.

Vocational expert means a vocational professional who has the qualifications required by the Commissioner of SSA. The VE provides expertise to the ALJ at the hearing.

Consider this recent case where the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected denial of disabled woman’s benefits.

                     Heather Browning v. Carolyn W. Colvin, 13-3836.

Finding repeated fault with the Social Security Administration (SSA) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who denied a Chandler woman Social Security disability payments, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case back to the SSA.

Heather Browning claimed she was intellectually and physically disabled. She has an IQ of 68 and suffers from a disease that limits the movement of her left leg.

The 7th Circuit faulted the ALJ for concluding Browning’s IQ score was invalid and that she actually had higher mental faculties because she was assessed as being sarcastic.

“The administrative law judge thought the fact that the plaintiff goes to ‘bars and clubs,’ does some cooking and shopping, helps care for a pet, watches television, and ‘only takes over-the-counter pain medications,’ showed that she can do at least sedentary work,” Judge Richard Posner wrote in Heather Browning v. Carolyn W. Colvin, 13-3836.

“He suggested (probably on the basis of her not using prescription painkillers) that she had outgrown the effects of the Legg-Calve-Perthes disease that she had had as a child and that her current problems with her left leg were the result of her obesity. (But so what? The issue is the disabling effect of those problems.)”

The appellate court asserted the administrative law judge committed an error by instructing the Vocation Expert (VE) to assume Browning could perform sedentary work.

Pointing to O’Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 620 (7th Cir. 2010), Judge Posner wrote the VE could not determine Browning’s ability to work because the judge would not let her consider several of the claimant’s limitations.

Also, the 7th Circuit questioned how many jobs would be available in Chandler for Browning and noted the judge’s conclusion that Browning could work as a “hand packer” is not a job that exists in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

This was the Case of Heather Browning v. Carolyn W. Colvin, 13-3836.

(By Marilyn Odendahl)

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The Treating Physician Rule Is Controlling


7th Circuit: Omission of fibromyalgia diagnosis reversible error


Treating Physician Rule

The opinion of the treating physician is entitled to controlling weight. It will decide whether you get paid, if it cannot be discredited. If you do not have your own doctor, then the consultative examiner’s (CE) opinion will control. However, a treating physician’s  opinion is accorded controlling weight only if the opinion is “well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in [the] case record.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2).

Evidence from a treating physician is not the only medical evidence that a claimant may present. Non-medical evidence, such as testimony or reports from chiropractors and physical therapists, is also admissible. Medical-related evidence, such as the testimony of personal friends, concerning what they have observed is also probative and admissible. The ALJ must consider all such evidence. The ALJ is charged with the duty to weigh all of the evidence in the record to reach a fair decision.

On occasion, the ALJ may find the evidence of a non-treating source more persuasive than that of the Treating Physician. The opinion of a treating physician “must be given substantial or considerable weight unless `good cause’ is shown to the contrary.” Good cause is shown when the:

“(1) treating physician’s opinion was not bolstered by the evidence;

(2) evidence supported a contrary finding; or

(3) treating physician’s opinion was conclusory or inconsistent with the doctor’s own medical records.”

If the ALJ can give specific reasons for failing to give the opinion of a treating physician controlling weight, and those reasons are supported by substantial evidence in the record, then there will be no reversible error.


      Nancy J. Thomas v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Social Security Administration (SSA) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the Office of Disability  Adjudication And Review (ODAR) committed reversal error when he omitted fibromyalgia from a woman’s list of impairments. This omission was not supported by the evidence. The Federal Circuit Court reversed denial of her application for supplemental security income (SSI).

Nancy Thomas , the claimant, was diagnosed with Graves’ disease in 2006, an autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid gland. Over the next four years she complained of headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, pain in her neck, depression, intolerance to heat and cold, and other symptoms. She saw two doctors before filing for SSI, where she saw a state medical examiner (ME). The Social Security Administration denied her application for SSI in 2011. It took six years for her to get her benefits.

She went back to one of her treating doctors, who diagnosed her with fibromyalgia and prescribed Lyrica to help. Another doctor completed a disability questionnaire which stated she had been diagnosed with Graves’ disease and moderate fibromyalgia causing muscle and joint pains and these conditions “substantially limit” Thomas’ ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Thomas appeared before an ALJ a year and half after her initial denial of SSI and he denied her claim. The ALJ admitted Thomas suffered from Graves’ disease, degenerative changes of the left shoulder and lumbar spine, and dysthymic disorder, but did not acknowledge fibromyalgia because neither of her treating physicians (TA) who had diagnosed her and and who supported her was a rheumatologist. The SSA ALJ also thought Thomas’ symptoms were not severe enough and at most caused minimal limitations to Thomas’ ability to work. The District Court upheld the verdict.


Thomas appealed, claiming the ALJ’s omission of her fibromyalgia diagnosis were unsound and the conclusion about the severity of her physical impairments is not back up by evidence.

In a per curiam decision heard by Chief Judge Diane Wood and Judges William Bauer and Michael Kanne, the 7th Circuit Federal Court ruled the ALJ overlooked a second set of criteria when deciding whether Thomas had fibromyalgia, which includes a history of widespread pain and repeated occurrence of symptoms. Thomas supplied this evidence, refuting the SSA’s claim that overlooking this set of criteria was harmless error.

The 7th Circuit also agreed with Thomas that the ALJ’s claims about the severity of her symptoms were not backed up by sufficient evidence. It ruled the ALJ put too much weight on the testimony of the government’s two doctors who examined Thomas and not enough on Thomas’ Treating Physicians and her testimony.


“In finding Thomas not credible to the extent that she described more than minimal limitations, the ALJ relied on the seeming lack of objective evidence supporting Thomas’s subjective account of her symptoms, but, as discussed earlier, the ALJ skipped over the substantial findings of Thomas’s treating physicians and physical therapist that showed that her impairments indeed would limit her ability to perform Substantial Gainful Activity SGA,” the panel wrote in remanding the case for further proceedings.

The case is Nancy J. Thomas v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,  15-2390. (By Scott Roberts, June 23, 2016.)

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Culture of Corruption At Social Security Administration, Starts At The Top


The “so-called” scandal in the Madison, Wisconsin Social Security Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, SSA/ODAR, is disturbing. I believe that Judge John H. Pleuss’ is getting a raw deal.

I have some thoughts on the matter. At the end of this Blog post I have posted the article written by M. D. Kittle. Please read the article after I offer my comments. I have considerable experience in these matters.

This is an invasion of Judge John H. Pleuss’ privacy. I express no opinion concerning the Judge’s remarks in his personal notes. Some may find them inappropriate, and some may not. However, the Judge has an “expectation of privacy” in his personal notes and observations.

The Social Security Administration encourages the Judges to keep a “Private File” of notes to refer to when deciding a disability case. The notes help the Judge to refresh his recollection of the claimant and of the Hearing when he goes back to make a decision on the case. The File is separate from the Claimant’s Disability File. They should not be discoverable under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA).

The Disability Hearings are private, unless the claimant consents to strangers sitting in on the Hearing. The Judges’ personal notes from the Hearing should also be private.

The disability evaluation process is a “high volume’ business. A Judge must hear 50 to 75 cases a month in order to produce an average of 50 to 60 decisions a month. There are no pictures of the claimant in the case files. All judges scribble notes and memory joggers in order to try to remember the claimant later when they review the file. Credibility weighs heavy in the decision making process. A Judge must conjure up a recollection of the claimant to properly dispose of the case. One Judge’s characterization of the person who appeared before them may be different from another. His job is not to flatter the claimant, but to remember who he or she was. There is nothing in Judge Pleuss’ notes that is grounds for adverse action against him.

If you notice all of the cited comments refer to women; and women, only. Normally that would cause one to think that the ALJ is obsessed with women or female claimants. But, I have a better explanation, and it has nothing to do with the ALJ.

I contend that this incident raises serious questions about the fitness of the Decision Writers in Judge Pleuss’ Hearing Office. Judges do not write their own decisions. There are professional Decision writers in each Hearing Office. Lawyers and Para-legal writers draft a proposed decision based on the ALJ’s Hearing Notes. The ALJ modifies, amends, and approves a final draft.

First, if a Decision Writer has passed on to the Civilian Managers in the Hearing Office Judge Pleuss’ personal notes, that would be unethical and disloyal. We need look no further than the Decision Writers and Management to see what is happening here.

There has always been tension and friction between between the ALJ Corps and civilian managers, all the way up to the Commissioner in Baltimore, Maryland.

On several occasions the AALJ, the Judges’ Union, has lobbied Congress to remove the ALJ Corps from under the authority, supervision, and management of the SSA civilian managers.


Yes, there is a Culture of Corruption here; but, it starts in Baltimore, Maryland at the Office of the Commissioner and the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge; and it reaches down to the lowest level. And it is most malignant at the Hearing Office Director (HOD) and Decision Writers level.

Many of the Decision Writers suffer from mild mental disorders. They tend towards Melancholia. They are frustrated, and they bicker and complain. Some tend to be trouble makers.

Many, I have noticed, appear to be envious of the Judges. They resent that the ALJ hears the cases, but they, the writers, have to do the leg work of writing the decision. They work in the dark, behind closed doors, and get little or no credit. This tends to generate friction and resentment.

The worst of the lot are the male homosexual writers. And there are many. There were two in my office for almost 20 years. We had only six writers and the two males were homosexuals.

They are prone to hysterics. They are easily agitated, often for no discernible reason. I was discussing a draft decision with one once and, out of the blue, he became agitated and screamed at me. I was shocked. I did not know what I should do. Do I discipline him, or what? I did nothing, because there are so many of them and they are well placed. Also, the Hearing Office Chief Judges tends to protect them. So, I just let it go.

All of which brings me back to my original point. This is just the type of hanky-panky that male homosexual writers would start. This is how they operate. I know from experience. I spent about 20 years in a Hearing Office and I saw just about every kind of dirty office shenanigans that one could imagine.

The tip-off is that they only mentioned remarks about women. Anyone who has ever had to work with male homosexuals in a legal office or other closed community would notice that. It is a dead give-away.

All of this will probably turn out to be nothing more than a tempest in a tea pot.

Here is the article.

Social Security judge suspended in wake of Madison scandal.

Wisconsin Watchdog has learned that Administrative Law Judge John Pleuss’ hearings in recent days have been canceled amid a looming Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General investigation into the Madison Office of Disability and Adjudication Review, or ODAR.

Asked whether Pleuss had been suspended, an office employee who answered the phone Thursday June 16would say only that Pleuss was out of the office. So, too, was Office Director Laura Hodorowicz. Asked whether Hodorowicz had been suspended, the employee said, “I can’t answer that,” but that the director is “out today, too.”

Neither Pleuss nor Hodorowicz returned calls from Wisconsin Watchdog seeking comment.

Sources close to the situation say Administrative Law Judge John Pleuss appears to have been suspended as an investigation looms into allegations of misconduct at the Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. Doug Nguyen, spokesman for the Social Security Administration’s Chicago Region, did not return an email seeking comment. ‘Culture of corruption and cover-up’

Wisconsin Watchdog first reported last week about new charges of “pervasive” sexual harassment, bribery and nepotism coming to light at the Madison ODAR facility. These accusations came on top of previous allegations of misconduct, harassment, and whistleblower retaliation at both the Madison and Milwaukee disability claims review offices.

“There is a culture of corruption and cover-up, and that goes all the way to the top,” said an ODAR employee with knowledge of the situation. The staff member spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Wisconsin Watchdog obtained internal documents showing what employees have described as “highly inappropriate” comments Pleuss has made about claimants appearing before him.

“Young, white (female); attractive brunette,” Pleuss wrote under “Initial Observations” in official hand-written hearing notes. The claimants’ names and other personal information have been redacted.

“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.”

“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 one document, Pleuss wrote, “I’ll pay this lady when hell freezes over!

RELATED: ‘Culture of corruption and cover-up’ alleged in Madison Social Security office

Pleuss is one of six administrative law judges at the Madison office. He has been the subject of an internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations, according to multiple sources.

The employee who spoke to Wisconsin Watchdog on condition of anonymity said Pleuss has acquired a reputation as “being sexually inappropriate.”

“It truly has become a national running joke,” the staff member said.

But there is nothing funny about the charge by those familiar with the administrative law judge and the “toxic environment” of the Madison office that Pleuss has approved or rejected disability claims based on “how sexy he thought the claimant was,” the employee said.

The insider claims “sexual harassment of staff is pervasive and ongoing” in the Madison office. Other sources have told Wisconsin Watchdog as much.

A disability claims attorney told Wisconsin Watchdog this week that there has been concern for some time about Pleuss’ conduct. The attorney said cases that seemed strong were denied, while weaker cases were approved.

“This issue may explain a lot about that inconsistency,” the attorney said. “Given your reports, I will now be able to raise issues involving females. It should be interesting since I will be asking for copies of his notes on every denial.  I’m sure that request will be denied and I may end up asking federal district court to issue orders for the release of the documents.”

The ODAR employee who spoke to Wisconsin Watchdog said the SSA offices in Milwaukee and Madison are “extremely hostile work environments for whistleblowers.” They also are closely connected by the same administrative players in the Chicago ODAR Region.

Reward and punishment

ODAR whistleblowers have told Wisconsin Watchdog that they have repeatedly been subject to retaliation and intimidation for reporting waste, abusive behavior and other misconduct in their government offices.

Less than a month after Ron Klym was featured in a special investigation, the senior case technician at the Milwaukee Office of Disability Adjudication and Review was told the agency that has employed him for 16 years is proposing to fire him.

Klym detailed the Milwaukee office’s growing backlog of cases. Wisconsin Watchdog obtained records of some of the more lengthy delays.

More problematic is what Klym calls the administrative “shell game.” He said the Milwaukee office’s case disposition numbers have at times drastically improved because managers in the chain have dumped off scores of cases to other regional offices.

(NOTE: This is not new. This was happening before 1990. Shell Games. Paying Down The Backlog. See )

Multiple sources have told Wisconsin Watchdog that, Hodorowicz, director of the Madison office, protects Pleuss and others in her inner circle.

The employee who spoke on condition of anonymity said Hodorowicz is fond of making “dirty backroom deals,” offering  “cooperative” employees perks in the form of financial benefits and special privileges to maintain their loyalty and above all –silence — about misconduct in the office.

Eventually, the office director runs out of sweeteners, the employee said.

“When that happens , the threats begin. … She will threaten people’s jobs, tell them she won’t promote them, lower their performance reviews, say that she will give them a bad reference,” the insider said. “She will give them the worst work assignments in the office.”

Wisconsin Watchdog has obtained emails sent by Hodorowicz that appear to be threatening in nature.

Multiple employees say the office director has been the subject of several investigations into her conduct, in Madison and when she held the same position in Milwaukee. Each time, they say, her cadre of loyalists testify on her behalf. And, sources say, they are rewarded for their loyalty.

And a Madison office staff member said Hodorowicz has taken nepotism to a new level.

Wisconsin Watchdog reported Monday that Office of Inspector General agents are opening an investigation into the Madison office, particularly focusing on Pleuss,  Hodorowicz, and Wayne Gentz, a group supervisor considered to be a Hodorowicz ally.

Also this week, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., sent a formal letter to the Social Security Administration requesting the agency’s “unfettered cooperation” in turning over information related to allegations of misconduct and retaliation in SSA’s disability claims review offices.

“I write to you concerning reports of whistleblower retaliation within the Milwaukee and Madison hearing offices of the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review,” Johnson wrote in the letter to Carolyn Colvin, SSA’s acting commissioner.

Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has been trying to get answers from the SSA since a staff-level briefing on May 9.


Categories: Social Security Judges | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Whistleblower Retaliation At Social Security Administration

Social Security whistleblower questioned by investigators after going public

MADISON, Wis. – One week after going public with allegations of misconduct and intimidation by managers at the Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Celia Machelle Keller had a visit from federal investigators peppering her with questions and making accusations of their own.

“I got home today (Wednesday) … and the dogs are going crazy,” Keller said. “Two guys are at my door. They gave their cards and told me they were with the (Social Security Administration) Inspector General’s office and they want to speak with me.”

Keller said it’s just more retaliation from a Social Security disability claims review agency that has come under fire for an array of conduct issues – including going after whistleblowers. file photo file photo

INVESTIGATED: Social Security Administration whistleblower Celia Keller says she was interrogated at her home this week by SSA Inspector General agents, days after she went public with her allegations of harassment and intimidation at the Madison office.

The lead case technician has worked for the Madison office for several years, and she claims management retaliated against her after she was called to testify in an inner-office misconduct case last year. The incident involved alleged “inappropriate behavior” by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), she said.

RELATED: Whistleblower: ‘I want to do my work without fear of retaliation’

Now, Keller claims the Inspector General’s office is dogging her because she took her complaints to Wisconsin Watchdog and to the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Keller, who did not want her name publicly disclosed in the first story last week for fear of reprisal, says she’s tired of living in fear.

“I’m scared to death to go into work tomorrow. What are they going to have waiting for me? Are they going to perp walk me out like they did the guy from Milwaukee?” she said.

Keller is referring to Ron Klym, a senior case technician in the troubled Milwaukee Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. Klym was the first Milwaukee ODAR whistleblower to go public with his allegations of lengthy case delays, inter-agency “shell games” of case transfers, and retaliation against employees who pointed out misconduct. Klym was temporarily placed on administrative leave shortly after he went public with the charges.

Klym also was subjected to an Inspector General investigation not long after taking his allegations of administrative misconduct to federal authorities.

Keller said the Inspector General agents told her they were investigating her for scheduling her son’s girlfriend, Danielle Bray, as a hearing monitor for disability claims appeals. The investigators took issue with what they characterized as a suspiciously higher amount of work Keller was providing Bray.

“They said, ‘Danielle Bray is scheduled for 12 days. Do you see how that looks suspicious?’” Keller said. The insinuation, Keller said, was that she was taking kickbacks for assigning Bray more work. Keller’s son and his girlfriend live with Keller and her husband in their McFarland home.

“They were out here for 30 minutes, drilling me, asking me, ‘Don’t you see how bad this looks?’” she said.

“They were questioning my integrity. I would never put my family in jeopardy for a few extra dollars.”

There’s apparently no policy against assigning family members work. Keller said several relatives of administrative law judges and supervisors at the Madison office work as hearing monitors and in other positions.

An official with the SSA Office of the Inspector General, citing the Privacy Act, said she could not confirm the existence of, or comment on any specific allegations involving any possible investigation.

“However, I can tell you that the Office of the Inspector General does have a role in the whistleblower process and we take whistleblower allegations very seriously,” said Tracy B. Lynge, communications director for the Inspector General’s office.

Keller said she provided the agents with scheduling documents and emails showing there was nothing untoward about the process. She sent Wisconsin Watchdog the same records. Everything looks in order, with Bray’s schedule approved by supervisors.

In one email chain in February, the director of the Madison office, Laura Hodorowicz, wrote a curt message threatening that she will “absolutely stop using” Bray after Keller complained that Bray was not getting as many hours as other monitors.

Keller previously told Wisconsin Watchdog that she and other staff members have been bullied and intimidated by Hodorowicz.  Keller said she and some of her colleagues learned after they complained in another harassment case that raising conduct questions was basically futile. Hodorowicz, she said, made life difficult for whistleblowers.

“We had a bullseye on our back,” Keller said.

Doug Nguyen, regional communications director at the Social Security Administration’s Chicago office, did not return a call seeking comment. He has declined comment in the past, saying the whistleblower allegations are “personnel matters.”

At the same time, Keller has received exemplary ratings in her performance reviews, even as investigators were called to look into the scheduling issues.

“Machelle exceeded expectations, both in terms of the volume of work she produced and the quality of what she did. She routinely pulled more than her fair share of cases,” her supervisor wrote in Keller’s appraisal in October 2015. She received a similar review in April 2016.

“How does a person get all 5s (the highest performance grade) on her employee evaluation and get accused of scheduling” irregularities? she said.

“Retaliation,” Keller answered her own question.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this in my 28 years of being a paralegal,” she said.

( By   /   May 26, 2016 )


Social Security whistleblower now faces firing

MILWAUKEE – Ron Klym spoke out publicly, alleging incompetence, misconduct and retaliation in the federal government office where he has worked for 16 years.

Doing so might just cost him his job.

On Thursday, less than a month after Klym’s accounts were featured in a special investigation, the senior case technician at the Milwaukee Office of Disability Adjudication and Review was forced to sign his own employment death warrant.

Klym said he was called into the office of Chief Administrative Law Judge Christopher Messina.

“He had a stack of papers in front of him. I said, ‘Well, it looks like a disciplinary action. Can I speak to my union rep? He said, ‘This is not a disciplinary action. This is a proposal to terminate. I need you to sign off on this,” Klym said. file photo file photo

COST OF WHISTLEBLOWING? Ron Klym faces being fired, he says, for blowing the whistle on alleged bad activity at the Milwaukee Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

The veteran employee of the Social Security Administration office that handles disability claim appeals was placed on administrative leave. He was told that Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge Sherry Thompson would make the final decision on the proposal within the coming weeks.

Klym, who claims he has endured several incidents of supervisor-driven retaliation since taking his complaints to federal authorities, said he wasn’t surprised by Thursday’s events.

“Frankly, this is the epitome of how they do business,” he said.

Earlier this month, Klym detailed the Milwaukee office’s growing backlog of cases. Wisconsin Watchdog obtained records of some of the more lengthy delays.

Dozens of cases on appeal took more than 700 days to complete. One Green Bay case clocked in at 862 days to dispose of. A Marquette request for benefits hit 1,064 days, and another was completed in 1,126 days.

“We had two clients who stopped in the office yesterday wondering what’s going on, and they have been waiting for 21 months,” Jessica Bray, partner at Upper Michigan Law in Escanaba, Mich., said in the May 4 investigative piece. Her colleague handled the noted cases that topped 1,000 days. “I sent a letter to the Milwaukee office, but I don’t think it’s going to do any good. Those cases haven’t even been assigned yet.”

In 2011, the inventory for the Milwaukee region’s disability claims appeals office was at approximately 2,200 cases; today it’s running at about 12,000, Klym said.

RELATED: Social Security whistleblower questioned by investigators after going public

Doug Nguyen, communications director for the Social Security Administration Chicago region, a six-state region that includes Milwaukee, said the agency acknowledges that Milwaukee ODAR has a “high average processing time for disability appeal hearings, and we are working to address the issue.”

Nguyen has said he cannot comment on personnel matters.

More problematic is what Klym calls the administrative “shell game.” He said the Milwaukee office’s case disposition numbers have at times drastically improved because managers in the chain have dumped off scores of cases to other regional offices.

“They are wholesale shipping cases out,” the senior legal assistant said. The impression is that the offices are performing at a better rate than they actually are. “When you ship 1,000 cases to somewhere else, then you do an audit, it looks better.”

At least three other ODAR employees have confirmed Klym’s account.

Now Messina is moving to have the whistleblower removed.

Klym said he is being charged with performance failures and conduct unbecoming a federal employee – all trumped up charges, he said.

The senior case technician said he is being held to a higher standard than his peers, required to meet increased production metrics. Those new standards, coincidentally, went into effect not long after he took his complaints to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last July, Klym said.

But he has documentation showing that his supervisor had rescinded the higher thresholds, noting that Klym’s previous workload – at as much as twice the output of his colleagues – was satisfactory.

He also has performance appraisals noting his exemplary performance in preparing cases.

Klym also faces being fired because he raised his voice and used “obscene” language during a discussion earlier this month with the ODAR office director, Trevor Pelot.

Klym said the discussion did get a little heated when Pelot told him that he had violated the public trust by taking his complaints about the office public.

“There is a definite retaliatory thing going on here,” he said. “I’m concerned that Mary and Ms. Keller may be next.”

Klym referred to Mary Brister, another employee at the Milwaukee office, and Celia Machelle Keller, a lead case technician at the Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

Brister, who went public with her complaints about the Milwaukee office, was suspended last week and she lost her tele-work privileges for a year. She claims management retaliated against her for telling her story to Wisconsin Watchdog.

Keller had Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General agents show up at her door this week, days after the whistleblower publicly claimed managers harassed and intimidated her after she testified in an office harassment case.

Klym, too, was interrogated by Inspector General agents at his home, some 18 hours after he contacted the office of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, about the issues in the Milwaukee office.

He will remain in his position while he awaits the final judgment. But Klym is not allowed in the building.

“I’m in a difficult position,” he said. “I can’t enter the office, so how can I access documentation or speak with anybody to prove I am innocent?”

He said he plans to reach out to representatives on the Senate committee and the federal office charged with protecting whistleblowers.

( By   /   May 27, 2016 )

Categories: socialNsecurity | Leave a comment

The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word




We, as Americans, cherish fairness. We like to believe that people are not punished or unjustly rewarded without justifiable cause. We like to dwell on parables of white virtue and black advancement culminating in the flowering of goodwill all around. Events sometimes force us to widen our gaze and focus on terrain we would rather not see. The 2006 court-martial of Cadet Webster Smith at the United States Coast Guard Academy did just that. The Webster Smith case was a litmus test for justice in America. Every once in a while a case comes along that puts our humanity as a people, and as Americans, on trial. Everything that we profess to stand for as Americans was on trial. Our sense of justice in America and particularly in the U.S. Military was on trial. This was no ordinary trial. Our humanity was on trial. Our system of justice was on trial. This case dissolved the deceptive façade and exposed certain moral deficiencies in our system of justice. This case alone puts the legitimacy of the entire military justice system at risk.

Webster Smith availed himself of every path to justice that we have. He filed an Article 138 Complaint under the UCMJ. He faced the Article 32 Investigation with two lawyers. He asserted all of his Constitutional Criminal Guarantees. He knew and made appropriate use of the Right to Counsel, the Right to Remain Silent, the right to a jury trial, the Right to Confront the witnesses against him, the right call witnesses on his behalf, the right to present evidence favorable to him, the presumption of innocence until his guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the right to argue his case before the Jury.

His Appellate Counsel, Ronald Machen, was top notch. He became the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In April 2015, he left the position and returned to the law firm WilmerHale.  Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr®  has played a leading role in historic events and landmark cases that have shaped the nation and left their mark across the globe. In matters ranging from the Army-McCarthy hearings to the legal defense of civil rights, from the 9/11 Commission to the restoration of the rule of law in apartheid-torn South Africa, their lawyers have made contributions that have profoundly affected our society. Because the law is still a profession as well as a business, lawyers have special obligations to the administration of justice and the development of the law. Their lawyers are  encouraged to meet these obligations through pro bono work. Attorney Machen represented Webster Smith on a pro bono basis. He received no fee.

Webster Smith appealed his conviction all the way to the United States Supreme Court. He lost at the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. He lost at the Court Of Appeals for the Armed Forces of the United States. The U. S. Supreme Court dismissed his appeal without comment. And, on top of the aforesaid, he filed a Complaint of Discrimination, pursuant to Commandant Instruction 5350.11. He had an air tight and fool proof case of disparate treatment. Yet, he lost. He lost because the System was manned by the most incompetent people God ever created. They did not have a clue as to what was going on in their office. The most significant case in the history of the Department of Homeland Security and the Armed Forces of America came to them and they were not capable of processing it properly.

On top of everything else, Webster Smith had bad luck. At some juncture along the way, most other people would have won, but not Webster Smith. One has to wonder why. There are some who will say that it was because he was Black. They will say that the System was designed and administered by white men and women; and, no Black man can obtain justice in that System. They might have a point, even though some of the decisions made concerning his case were made by Black people in key offices.

We now see that there is little or no justice in military justice. Any reasonable person who looks at this case or any other high profile military justice case would have to conclude that the Military Justice System is not designed to render justice. It is a system designed to punish. The entire courts-martial system, from Summary Court-martial to General Court-martial, has one specific purpose; that is to punish anyone who commits an offense against the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

This is intended to be the definitive word on the first and only court-martial of a United States Coast Guard Academy cadet. The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word is written from the perspective of the accused, Cadet First Class Webster Smith. It is not written from the perspective of his accusers. A prior account of this case focused on the women involved. Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Lady told the story of the court-martial from the perspective of the witnesses for the prosecution.

Why now? Well, there are several reasons. This Case is unique in that this has never happened before. No other Coast Guard Academy Cadet has ever been punished at a General Courts-martial. That is saying a lot for an institution that has been around since 1876.

Also, it has been ten years since the trial and conviction. An entire decade has passed. The sentence has been served. The Supreme Court Petition for A Writ of Certiorari has been denied. The Record is complete.

Cadet Smith was a senior when the trial began. He was within months of graduating from the Academy, but he was expelled. No Clemency was granted. His career was ruined. His life was irreparably harmed. For ten years he was required to register in the State of Texas as a Sexual offender. He married, had children, and for ten years he was not allowed to attend the birthday parties of his children.

This Case has been hotly debated in certain quarters. The Coast Guard has tried its best to forget that this court-martial ever occurred. However, I fear that this Case will be debated and talked about for years to come. Long after the political and social climates that gave rise to this Case have abated; cadets, officers, politicians and parents will be discussing the Webster Smith Case.

What distinguishes this book from other books on the Case is that this book distinguishes how the Coast Guard Legal Officers and the senior Academy officers disposed of this case as opposed to other cases with similar fact patterns. This Case will serve as a witness to an era in the United States Military and its Service Academies that was ripe with cultural and ethical upheavals, proceedings with plenty of due process and little justice, sexual assaults in the military, retaliation against whistleblowers, mind blowing results, aggravation and frustration. 

The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word

Title ID: 6293877

ISBN-13: 978-1533400802



The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word

Unrestricted Coast Guard Chronicles Vol 02 Nr 01

BY_AUTHOR Judge London Steverson


ISBN-13: 978-1533400802

6″ x 9″ on WHITE Paper

(198 pages, Black & White)

15.24 x 22.86 cm


Interior: The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word – updated version edited 2- formatted15Apr11.docx


Cover Finish: Glossy

Cover: cover-creator.pdf


The Case of Cadet Webster Smith, The Last Word

Title ID: 6293877

ISBN-13: 978-1533400802

Categories: Military Justice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America Week, Veszprem Hungary 2016

The Father of The America Week Program is Dr. Scott M. Campbell, Professor and Chair in Philosophy, Director of the American Studies Program in Arts & Sciences, at Nazareth College, Rochester, New York.

Dr. Campbell’s teaching and research interests focus on the philosophy of life. He was a Fullbright Scholar at Pannon University in Veszprem, Hungary.

Being a Fulbright scholar in Hungary led to:

  • The creation of Nazareth’s master’s program in American Studies (with the option to study abroad at the Institute for English and American Studies at the University of Pannonia in Veszprém, Hungary)
  • Connecting Nazareth education students with opportunities to gain teaching experience in Hungary
  • The creation of America Week at Pannon University,  an annual international conference on American Studies that continues to draw Nazareth faculty and students to Veszprem, Hungary to present papers. The first America Week Celebration was in 2007.
    This year marked the 9th America Week in Veszprém, Hungary.
  • Attracting Hungarian faculty and students to Nazareth. In 2013, Nazareth hosted 20 Hungarian students and three Hungarian faculty. The head of the Institute for English and American Studies in Veszprém, Dr. Szilárd Szentgyörgyi, received a Fulbright award to go to Nazareth for the August 2015- May 2016 academic year. His Project Title is Developing American-Hungarian Relations via Teaching.

    Developing American-Hungarian Relations via Teaching – See more at:


The above symbol speaks volumes. It visually represents the goals of the American Corners and the desire of the U S State Department spread American Culture all over Hungary.

The  main focus is to strengthen international relations between Hungary and the United States of America through its American Corners, America Week Celebration, and other programs.

The America Week is helping to create “a foundation of trust” between the Hungarian people and the American people.

This foundation can be built upon to form social, political, and economic ties to the Hungarian people. We wish to combat the notions perpetrated by Hollywood movies and the pop culture hip-hop and rap artists that the average Americans are shallow, violent, and godless. We wish to foster the notion that Americans have such values as loyalty, patriotism, family, faith, and the desire for education in common with the Hungarian people.

We wish to reach every level of Hungarian Society, and particularly the influential members of that society, who can not be reached through traditional diplomatic means , channels, and functions.

We want to encourage the use of the English language to communicate in every day discourse, and promote the reading of English books for leisure and for scholarship. Through the weekly Conversation Clubs and Book Clubs this is regularly and routinely promoted. All of these efforts combine and coalesce during the America Week with a special emphasis so as to grow together into a single mass.

An all-star cast cannot guarantee a blockbuster show. It helps, but the purpose and fundamental reason for the show must never be forgotten. It was a good week but not a great week.

America week should be great and memorable. It should be great because of who was there; and, it should be memorable because of what was said. It should be a life changing experience,  a rite of passage, something that people and students will talk about for years to come. It should be a high point of a student’s college education experience. 

One student at Pannon University once told me that she had decided that she wanted to be a lawyer because of something that I had said at an America Week presentation. And, she was already finishing up her second year of collage. 

Not every student will have that great of an experience; they might not experience a rapture or an epiphany, but they should take away something greater than what they experience from their regular curriculum, something  that they cannot experience in the normal nine to twelve months of classes and activities. 

Their America Week experience should be something they will remember a long time if not forever. It should be remembered like “Woodstock” or like the “Montraux Jazz Festival”. They should be able to calibrate their memories by what they did or heard at, for example, the 2010 America Week, or at the 2015 America Week. They should be inclined to talk of fun memories and reminisce, as in  “where we you in your life during the 2012 America Week?”; or, what do you remember most about the year that Ambassador Colleen Bell spoke at the America Week Celebration about the need for a new generation of bold and beautiful women to step out onto the world stage.

This was the 9th America Week Celebration in Veszprém, Hungary. This year’s program was most notable by who was not at the celebration than by who was.The appearance of the American Ambassador or the Charge’ de Affaires highlights the importance given to America Week and the significance that the American State Department attributes to the program. Including accomplished and high level personnel in the program adds even more symbolic importance to the basic concept of this concentrated week of cultural exchange.

Dr Scott Campbell, Dr Monica Weiss (pictured, below), and no other professors or teaching assistants from Nazareth College were there.

    (Dr. Monica Weis, SSJ from Nazareth College)

America Week should be more than just business as usual. The programs should not be more of the same. The classes, clubs and school visits that are standard fare and randomly occur on an ad hoc basis all year long should not be served up during this hyper-emphasized week as a feast.

It is notable, however, that good use was made of Americans living in Hungary while on Fullbright Scholarships as special teaching assistants, such as, Susanne Liaw from San Bernadino, California. (

        ( Above, Ambassador Colleen Bell)

Ambassador Colleen Bell at US Embassy Budapest, Hungary was not present; neither was her Charge’ de Affaires.

When Ambassador April Foley (above) was unavailable, she would send her Charge’ de Affaires, Mr. Jeffrey Levine (below).

Mr Jeffrey Levine even gave special presentations and made himself  available for several days.

The Cultural Attache’, Carolynn Glassman, Cultural Attaché at US Embassy Budapest (below) attended all of the America Week Celebrations during her tenure as Cultural Attache’.

When their duty schedules would permit, they would stay for several days and mingle with the students and other presenters.


American Corner Veszprém and the English and American Studies Institute, University of Pannonia, held their annual America Week program series in Veszprém from May 2-6. The programs included presentations on various U.S.-related topics by university faculty and students, a photo exhibition, concerts, a theater evening and more.



Please see the links to the detailed programs for each day.


    Date and time: May 2, 2016, 4:00 pm

    Venue: Aula, Building B, University of Pannonia (H-8200 Veszprém, Egyetem utca 10.)

    – Welcoming remarks given by representatives of the University of Pannonia and the American Corner

    – Keynote speech delivered by Christopher MACHIN, Cultural Attaché at US Embassy Budapest

    – Musical performance by Zsolt FARKAS, Snétberger Music Talent Center

    – Opening of an ART EXHIBITION:

    László KONDOR: Architectural Images of Chicago, IL, USA

    Art and life can take strange turns. Hungarian born Kondor is better known for decades in the United States as a conflict and political photographer. This exhibition – a masterly body of vintage photographs from the 1960s-1980s of Chicago public art and architecture – has been long hidden from view.

    It was in 1961 that Kondor arrived in the City of Chicago. The photographer was awe-inspired by the unique and extraordinary architecture of Chicago, the birth-place of the modern skyscraper. He prowled this new landscape for decades, creating a prodigious number of photographs. It was a personal journey of discovery. The images illuminate the quintessential urban worlds. All of them reveal the ferocious curiosity of the outsider in this most American city.

    Courtesy of the Artist, László Kondor, all rights reserved

May 2 program:


    Date and time: May 3, 2016, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

    Venue: Kisfaludy Room, Eötvös Károly County Library (H-8200 Veszprém, Komakút tér 3.)

    – Áron ROZGONYI: “Color Blind or color Brave?” The Cultural Set-up of the National Basketball Association

    Dóra SCHUCK: President Obama’s Visit to Cuba

    Anett TÓTH: The Effects of Social Media on Our Language Use

    Zsófia SZALKAI: Language in Motion: A Multilingual Community

    Kinga DÉR: Teachers in the Harry Potter Series

    Tamás TÓTH: Gothic Settings: From Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire

    Bence ZUBOR: The Unprecedented Presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt


    Date and time: May 3, 2016, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

    Venue: Kisfaludy Room, Eötvös Károly County Library (H-8200 Veszprém, Komakút tér 3.)

    Dr. Andrea M. NOEL (University of West Hungary, Fulbright scholar): Best practices for supporting the early literacy and language development of young children in US preschools

    Susanne LIAW (University of Debrecen, Wáli István Roma Residential College, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant): “How’d you end up in South Central, miss?”: An urban educator’s perspective on educational trends and equity in the USA

    Boglárka FALUSSY (EducationUSA Adviser): Why study in the US? An introduction to US higher education


    Date and time: May 3, 2016, 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm

    Venue: Historia Hangvilla Restaurant (H-8200 Veszprém, Brusznyai utca 2.)

    Bianka KŐSZEGI: Working in a Summer Camp in the U.S.

    Boglárka FALUSSY (American Corner director, IVLP alumna): My Journey Through America

    – socializing, board games, quizzes



May 3 program:


Date and time: May 4, 2016, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Venue: Kisfaludy Room, Eötvös Károly County Library (H-8200 Veszprém, Komakút tér 3.)

Eszter FARKAS: “Kód”-Switching on Facebook

Viktória KISS: Disney Princesses and Role Models for Femininity

Tímea KOVÁCS: Star Trek, the Edenic Tradition in the American Mind, and the Jeremiad

Alexandra GYIMESI, Vivien SZIBLER, Éva FORINTOS: Analysis of the Blue Paper from a Contact Linguistic Point of View

Zsófia SZALKAI, Éva FORINTOS: Visual and Linguistic Features of Bilingual Advertisements

Dalma RÁBAI, Dóra SKRINYÁR, Éva FORINTOS: The Contact Linguistic Study of the Newspaper titled: “The Messenger”

Csilla MOLNÁR: Marriage in 19th Century Women’s Fiction


Date and time: May 4, 2016, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Venue: Kisfaludy Room, Eötvös Károly County Library (H-8200 Veszprém, Komakút tér 3.)

Adriana TODEA (“Babes Bolyai” University, Faculty of Letters, Department of English Language and Literature, Cluj-Napoca, Romania): Language and Culture

 – Andrea SZABÓ (University of Pannonia, Faculty of Modern Philology and Social Sciences, English and American Studies Institute): The Western Reborn

 – Sándor CZEGLÉDI (University of Pannonia, Faculty of Modern Philology and Social Sciences, English and American Studies Institute): Language Policy and Party Politics in the United States: A retrospective look

 – Ildikó HORTOBÁGYI (University of Pannonia, Faculty of Modern Philology and Social Sciences, English and American Studies Institute): The Americas in the New Media


Date and time: May 4, 2016, 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Venue: Latinovits-Bujtor Studio Theater (H-8200 Veszprém, Iskola utca 2.)

At the 9th America Week in Veszprém, there was a theater evening to highlight American culture. The play “The War Room” was performed by Confuse-a-Cat Ltd. from Debrecen. The play is based on Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”, adapted to stage by Gergely Falvassy, directed by Péter Szurdoki. Thank you to the troupe for a fantastic performance!

“THE WAR ROOM”, based on the motion picture screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George, adapted to stage by Gergely Falvassy and Confuse-a-Cat Ltd.

Performed by: Confuse-a-Cat Ltd., University of Debrecen


May 4 program:


    Day 4 (Thursday) of America Week featured the American Corner’s regular English Conversation Club, this time with a twist: a short concert by Lovassy Chamber Orchestra in the Exhibition Hall in the Library (next to the American Corner). Join the program, develop your English skills and enjoy the music!

    Date and time: May 5, 2016, 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm

    Venue: American Corner Veszprém


    Date and time: May 5, 2016, 5:30 pm – 6:00 pm

    Venue: Exhibition Hall, Eötvös Károly County Library

May 5 program:

  • USA Basics Study Circle

    Date and time: May 6, 2016, 10:55 am – 11:40 am

    Venue: Lovassy László High School

    The American Corner offered a special English class for a group of students in Lovassy László High School. The students will learn interesting and useful facts about the USA through an interactive quiz.

    America Week was closed with some of the greatest American musicians at the Music Club – Special Edition program in Eötvös Károly Megyei Könyvtár. Thank you, Krisztián Kindler, for putting together a great selection of songs and telling us interesting stories and fun facts about the musicians, from B. B. King’s guitar to Johnny Cash’s prison concerts!

    Zenei Klub a könyvtárban – amerikai különkiadás

    2016. május 6-án, pénteken 16.30 órától

    az Eötvös Károly Megyei Könyvtár

    Közösségi terében

    (Veszprém, Komakút tér 3., III. emelet)

    A Zenei Klub május elején különkiadással jelentkezik. Az Amerikai Kuckóval együtt hívunk minden érdeklődőt az ”Amerika Hétre”, ahol ezúttal a 20-21. századi amerikai könnyűzene számos kiemelkedő alakjának egy-egy dala is felhangzik a közel két órányi válogatásban: Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Public Enemy, Lauryn Hill, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, B.B. King, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash – csak néhány név a változatos programból.

    Továbbá a Zenei Klubba érkezők kvízjátékban is részt vehetnek, ahol értékes nyeremények várnak a legügyesebbekre.

    Klubvezető: Kindler Krisztián

    Helyben történő regisztrációt követően a rendezvény látogatása ingyenes.

    A program során a könyvtár állományában megtalálható dokumentumokat mutatjuk be.

    Szeretettel várunk minden kedves érdeklődőt!

May 6 program:

Some of the programs required registration at or in American Corner Veszprém.

Admission was free to all of the programs.



Categories: Hungary | Leave a comment

Whistleblower or Adulteress?

Navy officer convicted of adultery gets chance to clear her name

Lt. Cmdr. Syneeda Penland was convicted of adultery and conduct unbecoming, and was forced out of the Navy months shy of her retirement. But Penland swears she was victimized by her command for reporting waste and fraud.

Now, Penland will have a second chance to prove whether she was the victim of whistleblower retaliation by leaders at Navy Expeditionary Combat Command in the 6-year-old case.

A federal judge on April 20 ruled that the Board for Correction of Naval Records (BCNR) must take a second look at Penland’s case to determine whether her substantiated claims of waste, fraud and abuse against her command confer whistleblower status, as she claims — and if they do, whether the Navy should compensate her for forcing her out months before her 20-year retirement mark because of a felony conviction.

“From the day that I blew the whistle, which was April 4, 2007, everything that happened from that point forward — they have to consider, what did [the command]  do?” Penland told Navy Times in a phone interview Friday.

BCNR has the power to expunge the results of her Board of Inquiry, which was the basis of her 2009 discharge, and may allow her to regain the benefits she would have received if she had been allowed to retire.

The BCNR cannot unilaterally overturn her conviction, the federal judge in the case noted, and Penland did not ask for that in her filing. She chose to focus on the BOI decision to streamline her case, she told Navy Times last year, because the process is more straightforward than overturning a criminal conviction.

A Navy spokeswoman declined to comment on the April 20 ruling that sends the whistleblower review back to BCNR.

“The Board of Correction of Naval Records will reconsider their prior decision in accordance with the federal court’s order,” Lt. Jackie Pau, a Navy spokeswoman, told Navy Times.

Penland, a former supply officer who had earned her commission after several years as an enlisted cryptologic technician, began asking questions about Naval Coast Warfare Group 1’s procurement practices almost as soon as she took the comptroller job in 2006.

Her superiors didn’t appreciate her informal investigation of some of their contracts and transactions, she said, so when a former colleague’s estranged wife contacted the command with allegations of an affair, they had what they needed against her.

The investigation into her relationship with then-Lt. j.g. Mark Wiggan began in April 2007, based on sexual photos of her with a man. She claims those photos are of an ex-boyfriend, not her friend and coworker.

At that point, Penland decided to formally file her concerns about NWSG-1 with the (IG) inspector general.

Three of her allegations were later substantiated by the IG, which Penland hopes is enough to grant her whistleblower status, and solidify the definition for others who have gone through similar retaliation.

“Her ruling opened up the doorway for me, as far as where I want to go, making sure that our veterans are protected,” she said.

Penland was convicted in 2008 of adultery, making false official statements and conduct unbecoming an officer, for which she spent two months in a San Diego brig. Since this was a court-martial, she is a convicted felon — which legal experts say is very unusual for adultery cases.

She first filed a BCNR case to have her BOI overturned in 2009, which moved to dismiss her from the Navy for misconduct and poor performance. It was denied.

After exhausting Navy channels, she filed a claim in federal District of Columbia court against Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to overturn the BCNR’s decision, choosing to represent herself.

“The BCNR denied clemency, in part, because Ms. Penland was not a whistleblower under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act,” Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote in her decision. “In this respect, the BCNR erred. The case will be remanded for reconsideration of whether Ms. Penland’s eligibility as a whistleblower and claims of retaliation entitle her to clemency.”

Penland kept meticulous records of her case, including every filing and bit of communication from her criminal investigation, as well as her fraud and retaliation complaints.

“What was key, I believe, is when I gave [Collyer]  the outline of these dates, I gave her also when I was in contact with the Department of Justice,” she said.

Now it’s a waiting game, she said. Penland’s case would technically grant her back-pay for the five months she had left until retirement eligibility, in addition to the past six years of retirement pay, but it’s more of a means to the end of clearing her name.

“I never thought of myself as a convicted felon,” she said.

(LCDR Syneeda Penland meets CNO ADM Mike Mullen at 2007 NNOA Banquet in San Diego, CA.)

LCDR Syneeda Penland, a Black female Navy supply officer, formerly with a West Coast-based coastal warfare unit is scheduled to be court-martialed on 21 May in San Diego on charges that she had an affair with a married junior officer and lied about it later.

LCDR Penland, who is Black, says her prosecution is merely retaliation by her command after she made complaints about financial misconduct by military officials and civilian contractors within Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.

LCDR Penland, 36, is charged with adultery, indecent acts, conduct unbecoming an officer and making a false official statement. She could face as many as 16 years in prison and be dismissed from the Navy if convicted on all counts.

Her defense lawyer, Marine Capt. Patrick Callahan, said it is unusual for an adultery case to be taken to a general court-martial, where any finding of guilt, even on a lesser charge, would be a felony conviction that would follow Penland for life. It’s also unusual, he said, that the adultery charge is not accompanied by more serious charges, and because of his client’s rank and nearness to retirement.

LCDR Penland has 19 years of military service. She is the National Outreach Chairman of the San diego chapter of the National Naval Officers’ Association.

LCDR Penland is single. The man with whom she is alleged to have had an affair is a married lieutenant junior grade, and is a prosecution witness. LCDR Penland has denied having a sexual relationship with the man.

Wayne Johnson, a retired Navy lawyer, said that since LCDR Penland refused non-judicial punishment, NJP, her superiors had a great deal of discretion as to how they would deal with her, but he also said the general court-martial in an adultery case was unusual but not unheard of.

Johnson said adultery cases frequently are based on witness testimony — usually that of the second person in the relationship, who is often granted immunity in exchange for his or her testimony.

Johnson said that if a sexual relationship were proven, prosecutors would also have to prove that it was prejudicial to good order and discipline in order to win an adultery conviction. Since LCDR Penland and the man were both officers, were not members of the same command, and are not alleged to have carried on the affair in public, that might be difficult to prove, he said.

LCDR Kevin Messer is lead prosecutor in the case. LCDR Messer denied that LCDR Penland’s prosecution had anything to do with command retaliation and said the general court-martial fit the crime. He called allegations of financial problems a “smokescreen and a subterfuge” but did not dispute any of the allegations when talking to Navy Times.

“This case wasn’t about adultery,” LCDR Messer said. “It was about a lieutenant commander who abused her rank to intimidate and coerce an enlisted sailor for the purpose of causing her to divorce her husband. It was about sex, lies and manipulation.”

Neither Callahan nor Penland’s civilian lawyer, Clifton Blevins, returned calls for comment about Messer’s accusations.

LCDR Penland, a supply officer who was commissioned through OCS in 1997 after serving seven years as an enlisted sailor, said she was warned several times by superiors to stop questioning financial practices within San Diego-based Naval Coastal Warfare Group 1 in the months after she arrived at the command in 2006.

She said her command failed to win approval from Naval Installations Command and Naval Facilities Command before completing multimillion dollar construction and renovation projects at the Navy Outlying Landing Field in San Diego; hired contractors in government positions without first advertising those positions to the public; and allowing civilian contractors to supervise military personnel and approve government contracts.

Steve McDonald, director of Business Development for the contractor, Logistics Support Inc., declined to comment on Penland’s allegations. A Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon was also unable to provide responses to the allegations.

In a separate command investigation completed by NECC officials regarding allegations of racial and gender discrimination — LCDR Penland is Black — by her command, a Navy captain suggested that LCDR Penland raised the allegations only after learning that she was facing adultery charges.

LCDR Penland turned down mast on March 26, and was referred to court-martial on June 5.

She filed a complaint with Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., on Feb. 21, a complaint with the NECC inspector general March 30, and a second complaint with the Defense Department inspector general April 10. Her first complaint to Filner occurred more than one month before she went to NJP.

NECC has not responded to requests under the Freedom of Information Act for investigation findings. LCDR Penland produced documents to prove that she requested the investigation. A spokesman for the DoD inspector general’s office said he was unable to provide results because its investigation of LCDR Penland’s allegations is still underway.

Callahan said the fact that the NECC investigation was not yet completed more than a year after it was filed was unusual because IG investigations involving complaints of command reprisal are normally completed within six months.

Callahan said he asked that the trial be postponed until the IG investigations are concluded, but trial judge Cmdr. Robert Redcliff denied that request.

LCDR Syneeda Penland was found guilty and sentenced to 60 days in jail on 24 May. She was also fined two months pay after the military jury found that she had been involved in a sexual relationship with a married lieutenant junior grade and lied about it to her superiors.

After deliberating for approximately two hours, five captains and three commanders found LCDR Penland guilty of adultery, conduct unbecoming an officer, making a false official statement and failing to obey a lawful order.

The Black female officer was taken to the brig immediately after her sentence was announced.

It was very surprising to see an officer given jail time for purely military offenses,” her defense lawyer, Marine Capt. Patrick Callahan, said, adding that it was also unusual to see the case taken to a general court-martial, where a conviction is equivalent to a felony conviction in civilian courts. “These are things where if she was working at the local Sears, she would have been called into the office and yelled at, and at worse, fired.”

LCDR Penland said earlier that she believed her court-martial was part of a command reprisal for her questioning what she said was financial misconduct within the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. That misconduct, she said, included improper funding of a multimillion dollar building construction project at the Navy’s Outlying Landing Field in San Diego, NECC commanders allowing civilian contractors to supervise military personnel and make procurement decisions, and illegal hiring practices within the command.

An investigation into Penland’s allegations by the Defense Department Inspector General has not been completed. The NECC IG has not responded to queries concerning the status of its investigation into similar allegations raised by LCDR Penland in a complaint more than a year ago. On June 15, 2008 that IG investigation has not been completed.

During the two-day court-martial, LCDR Penland, who is single and has nearly 19 years of service, and the lieutenant junior grade both denied having a sexual relationship. The prosecution presented no witnesses to the affair.

Callahan said the prosecution’s only evidence of an affair were close-up pictures of sexual activity between two people whose faces were not visible, and several e-mails purportedly between the husband and wife that the husband denied writing.

The husband, Lt. j.g. Mark Wiggan, testified that the photos were of sexual activity between him and his ex-wife. He said that she gave the photos and e-mails to Navy prosecutors while the couple was going through divorce proceedings in civilian court.

Callahan said there was no proof that the e-mails had been sent by Wiggan and said they could have been sent by anyone with access to his e-mail account.

Callahan said the case was unusual because LCDR Penland was court-martialed while Wiggan was given a good fitness report and a Navy commendation after he allegedly confessed to his superiors. He also said there have been recent cases where married officers in more compromising situations have not been court-martialed and been allowed to retire.

Callahan said most officers convicted by court-martial are ordered to show cause why they should be retained in the service after the conviction. Those who cannot do so are processed for administrative separation, which would force Penland to lose all retirement benefits.

Justice is supposed to be fair and equal, and this is far from that,” he said.

Callahan said Penland would appeal the verdicts.


Categories: Military Justice | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Commander Merle James Smith, Junior, U S Coast Guard (Retired); This Is Your Life

Before there was Affirmative Action at the United States Coast Guard Academy, there were athletic scouts and the recruitment of star athletes.

The Chief Scout at the Coast Guard Academy was Captain Otto Graham, formerly the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns professional football team.

Merle James Smith, Junior was recruited into the Coast Guard Academy to play football. Captain Otto Graham, the Athletic Director, said he needed a defensive tackle and a wide receiver on the varsity football team. That was on or about 1960 or 1961.

The Coast Guard Academy made a small step for America, and a giant step for African Americans. It had done the right thing for the right reason. This was not the most popular thing to do at this time.

Considering what was happening a bit further south in America. In places like Little Rock, AR. and Birmingham,AL what had been accomplished at the Coast Guard Academy with little or no fanfare was creating major social upheaval. Some Southern communities responded with police dogs and fire hoses.
Some time later it was discovered that this football player, Merle Smith, Junior may have had some African blood. And the rest is history.

 How many years must a man faithfully serve, before he is given the Honor he is due?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

50 years is only half a Century; but it is never too late to tweak Posterity.

CDR Merle James Smith, Jr., an authentic American Hero, from the Old School. He achieved honor and glory the old fashioned way; he earned it!!

(CDR Merle Smith, USCG (Ret.) and Judge London Steverson, USALJ (Ret.) drink a toast to their 52 years of friendship at the Coast Guard Academy Eclipse Week Celebration honoring the 50th Anniversary of  CDR Smith’s graduation from the Academy as the  First Black Graduate.)

Congratulations Commander Merle J. Smith, Junior. Today you are the most interesting man in America.

You deserved the 13 Gun Salute and the full Regimental Parade given to you on April 10, 2016.

 This recognition is well deserved and long overdue. Honoring the first Black graduate honors all Black graduates.

The Academy was founded in 1876. The exclusion of African Americans from the Academy from 1876 until 1962 is a tragic fact of American history.

On April 10, 2016 fifty-four years after he was sworn in as a cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy, CDR Smith was honored for being the first American of African ancestry to graduate from this historic institution.

The Academy was not aware initially that there was an African American cadet at the Academy. He had not been recruited as a “Black cadet”; nor, was he recognized as one by the Coast Guard Academy Admission’s Office.

Possibly, he was not recognized as an African American because he did not physically resemble one. None of his school records labeled him as Black, and he had not been recruited as a minority candidate.

When Black spectators from the New London community came to watch the corps of cadets march in parade, they frequently mistook Anthony Carbone and Donnie Winchester as the possible Black cadet. Carbone was an Italian, and Winchester was a Native American. They both had considerably darker complexions and more course facial features than Merle Smith.

CDR Smith’s appointment had been tendered before President Kennedy issued the directive to find and appoint Black candidates for the Coast Guard Academy.

His father, Colonel Merle Smith , Senior, was the Professor of Military Science at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland; and, he had formerly been an Army Staff officer at the Pentagon.

The only two Black cadets to have been recruited under President John F. Kennedy’s Directive were London Steverson and Kenneth Boyd. They entered the Academy in 1964 and graduated in 1968.

This official portrait should be sent on a cross-country all Coast Guard Units/Facilities Tour to educate the troops and the corps on African American achievements since CAPT Mike Healey. This should be done before the portrait finds its permanent resting place at the Coast Guard Academy.

Rear Admiral and Mrs James Rendon, congratulate CDR Merle James Smith II, USCG (Ret.) on April 09, 2016 at the Annual Eclipse Awards Banquet at the United States Coast Guard Academy. RADM Rendon is the 41st Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
The Eclipse Banquet was to honor CDR Smith for his achievement of being the first Academy graduated of African Ancestry.

A 13 Gun Salute and a full Regimental Parade for CDR Merle James Smith, Jr. to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of his graduation from the U S Coast Guard Academy, the first American of African Ancestry to do so.

Vice Admiral Thomas R. Sargent III, USCG, a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 1938, presents LT Merle J, Smith II, the Bronze Star, with “V” for Valor.


VADM Sargent III, was also a veteran of Vietnam service. He loved to tell stories of his experiences in Vietnam.


The other little story is I went to Vietnam and I was assigned a hotel room.  It was an annex.  I can’t remember the name of the annex but it consisted of one room with a toilet and they used to turn all the electricity off about nine o’clock at night, and then I . . . anyway, I completed my work there and called up for a car to take me to the airport.  I called, naturally, the Army motor pool and a little Vietnamese gal answered the telephone and I said, “This is Captain Sargent.  I’d like to have a car take me to the airport”, and I gave her the time and she said, “Captains no rate cars.”  Well captains in the Army didn’t rate cars but captains in the Coast Guard and the Navy did, and she hung up on me.  Well the telephone system in Vietnam was not very good and so it took me another 20 minutes before I finally got through.  Another Vietnamese girl answered the phone and I said, “Let me talk to your supervisor”, and low and behold Lomca [phonetic] answered the telephone as a Sergeant and I said, “This is Captain Sargent.  I need a car to take me to the airport”, and he said, “Listen buddy. I’m a sergeant, you’re a sergeant. I don’t rate a car and nor do you”, and he hung up on me again and I thought, “Oh, something’s got to change”, so I called up once more. I got him again and I said, “This is Colonel Savage, United States Coast Guard.  Send my car down.  I want to go to the airport.”  He said, “Yes Sir”, and so I signed for the car as T. R. Salvage, and I don’t know what happened to it but it worked, and the reason I picked out the name Savage is because when I was a cadet [at the Academy]  there was a certain Lieutenant Commander [Robert T.] McElligott who became a rear admiral who was a physics instructor.  I was sitting in class and for some reason or other Admiral McElligott couldn’t remember my name and so he asked a question and then he said, “Mr. Savage, I want you to answer it”, and I didn’t.  I didn’t even pay attention because Savage didn’t ring a bell and he yelled, “Mr. Savage”, and I suddenly realized he meant me and I said, “Yes Sir.”  He said, “Put yourself on report for inattention in class.”  “Yes Sir.”  So that’s why I remember the name Savage [chuckle].


The Academy was not aware initially that there was an African American cadet at the Academy. He had not been recruited as a “Black cadet”; nor, was he recognized as one by the Coast Guard Academy Admission’s Office.

Possibly, he was not recognized as an African American because he did not physically resemble one. None of his school records labeled him as Black, and he had not been recruited as a minority candidate.

Some time in 1962 rumors began to be circulated in the Black Community of New London, Connecticut that there was a Black cadet at the Coast Guard Academy. How did those rumors start? It was suggested at the time that Doctor Bill Waller,  the Chemistry Professor at the Academy had  started the rumors.

I can verify that Doctor Waller was indeed the source of those rumors. In 1967 Doctor Waller invited me to his home on several occasions on a Sunday afternoon. He told me himself that he had put the word out that there was a Black cadet at the Academy. He also said that several members of his church had come back and told him that they had stood outside the Academy fence and watched the entire Brigade of cadets march on Saturday mornings. But, they were not able to definitively pick out the Black cadet. They reported that they had seen several who looked like they could be Black. Doctor Waller said that he had also watched the cadets marching on Saturday mornings and  he believed that several cadets with very dark tans could have been mistaken for a Black cadet. They all had shaven heads, and some were darker than Merle Smith. He mentioned Anthony Carbone, Donnie Winchester, and Tony Alejandro.

(Doctor William Waller, Chemistry Professor at the Coast Guard Academy)

When Black spectators from the New London community came to watch the corps of cadets march in parade, they frequently mistook Anthony Carbone and Donnie Winchester as the possible Black cadet. Carbone was an Italian, and Winchester was a Native American. They both had considerably darker complexions and more course facial features than Merle Smith.

    (The Chief Scout at the Coast Guard Academy was Captain Otto Graham, pictured above)  Captain Graham was the Academy’s Athletic Director. He was formerly the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns professional football team. While at the Academy, Captain Graham set many records. After Merle J. Smith, Jr was recruited, the Academy Football Team went undefeated in the 1963 season.                                                                                                                                                              

(Pictured above, are some of the members of the 1963 Varsity Football Team. Number 83 is Merle Smith.)

Was that a coincidence or was it in part due to the addition to the team of  Number 83, a wide receiver and defensive tackle from Maryland by the name of Merle Smith?

    (Pictured above is Ensign Merle James Smith, Junior)


On June 8, 1966, the US Coast Guard Academy in New London graduated the first African American student, Ensign Merle James Smith, Jr. Smith received a Bachelor of Science degree as part of a class of 113 cadets. The Coast Guard Academy began in 1876 on the topsail schooner Dobbin and moved to its present location in New London, Connecticut, in 1932. – See more at:

(Pictured below, Colonel Merle James Smith, Senior, presents his son, Ensign Merle James Smith II, his Graduation Certificate and his Officer’s Commission at the Graduation Ceremony in New London, CT in 1966)

(Pictured in the background is Admiral Willard J. Smith, The Academy Superintendent)

ADM Willard J. Smith served as the 13th Coast Guard Commandant from 1966-1970. He was the first aviator to hold the rank of Commandant Of The Coast Guard, the Coast Guard’s highest-ranking position.

On a warm sunny day in May 1966, Merle James Smith, Junior, became the first American of African Ancestry to graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut.

Upon graduation he was first assigned a the Communications Officer aboard he USCGC Minnetonka, a 255-foot medium endurance law enforcement vessel. Later he was promoted to the post of Operations Officer.

Because of his exceptional performance of duty and expert leadership abilities onboard the CGC Minnetonka, Ensign Smith was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade), and given command of his own ship, the 82 foot Patrol Boat, the CGC Cape Wash. The Cape Wash was home ported in Monterey, California.

On or about 1970, after being promoted to the rank of Full Lieutenant, LT Smith was given orders to the War Zone in Viet Nam.

In Vietnam, LT Smith was to command two vessels, the CGC Point Mast and the CGC Point Ellis. LT Smith and vessels under his command directed more than eighty Naval Fire Support Missions. He participated in support operation mission, called Operation Market Time.

In another mission, called Operation Sea Lords, LT Smith’s vessel accounted for the destruction of ten enemy bunkers, four rocket launchers, thirteen structures, and nineteen Sampans.

Commander Smith has many awards and medals. His decorations include The Bronze Star With A “V” For Valor, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Citation, the Presidential Unit Citation,, the Vietnamese Cross for Gallantry, and many other awards and decorations.

CDR Smith is the first American sea service officer  of African Ancestry to command an American Federal vessel in combat, and to receive the Bronze Star.

When he returned from combat service in Vietnam, CDR Smith was assigned to the International Affairs Division at Coast Guard Headquarters, in  the Volpe Building, at 7th and D Street, SW, Washington, DC.

He attended the National Law Center at George Washington University. In 1975 after completing Law School he was awarded his Juris Doctorate Degree. He then received a new assignment. He became the Deputy Chief of The Coast Guard Military Justice Division.

He retired from Active Duty in 1999. He lives in New London, Connecticut with his wife, Dr. Linda Blackmann Smith, and their two children; Merle Smith , the Third, and Chelsea.

In 2006 while teaching law at the Academy CDR Smith was retained as the Individual Military Counsel (IMC) for Cadet Webster Smith who became the first Coast Guard Academy cadet to be court-martial in the history of the Coast Guard Academy. CDR Smith is no relation to Cadet Webster Smith. Cadet Webster Smith was detailed a Navy Judge Advocate Ggeneral (JAG) officer as his detailed military counsel. The Individual Military Counsel is the lead counsel. He is a civilian and he is in charge of the defense team.

CDR Smith received a Pioneer Award. What does that mean? A “Pioneer” is a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.

The Award could have been called the Trailblazer Award. Trailblazer is a synonym for Pioneer. The term trailblazer signifies those who strike out on a new path or break new ground, either literally or symbolically, using skills of innovation or brave constitutions to conduct their lives off the beaten path. Often known for independent thought, rugged individualism and pioneering ways, trailblazers throughout history have included cutting-edge inventors, explorers and healers. Trailblazers throughout history all have shared an innovative spirit that kept them going when told their endeavors would be fruitless or against impossible odds. All have made their mark on history and mankind by refusing to quit and pushing ahead, most often into uncharted territory. When Merle James Smith entered the Coast Guard Academy in June 1962 he was sailing into uncharted waters. He had no chart, compass or navigator; yet, he reached his destination.

In 2007 CDR Smith was inducted into the Coast Guard Academy’s Hall of Heroes. On November 08, 2014, another member of the Class of 1966 was also inducted into the Hall of Heroes. He was CDR James Ellis. On that day the Pentagon, the Defense Department and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave an award to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for its support of the Vietnam War.

Standing next to CDR Ellis after the ceremony, CDR Smith said, “He’s the same guy. He hasn’t changed a bit. I have always respected him and liked him.”

“It’s particularly challenging for us to have gone to a place like Vietnam where you can’t even speak the language of the people that you are trying to save, but you go and do it anyway,” CDR Smith said.

CDR Ellis acknowledged after the ceremony that those who served in Vietnam were beginning to get recognized for their service, but “it’s 50 years later.”

CDR Smith has served as an adjunct Professor of Law at the Coast Guard Academy. He also served as the Legal Counsel for General Dynamics, Electric Boat.

In February, 1976 the Coast Guard Academy announced the appointments of female cadets to enter with the Class of 1980. Fourteen women  graduated as part of the Academy’s Class of 1980.

In 1991 a Women’s Advisory Council was established.

In 2000 the Coast Guard  promoted its first female officer to Rear Admiral. She was Captain Vivien S. Crea. She was not an Academy graduate.

In 2009 CAPT Sandra L. Stosz was promoted to Rear Admiral, becoming the first female graduate of the Coast Guard Academy to reach flag rank.

The Coast Guard was the first Military Service Academy to select a woman superintendent of the academy.  Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz, Coast Guard Director of Reserve and Leadership, was selected as Superintendent of the Academy. Rear Admiral Stosz graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in the Class of 1982.

In 2008 the Academy hosted a free, public Women’s Equality Day information fair on August 26 in Munro Hall at the Academy.

Each year since 1971, when President Jimmy Carter designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day, the United States has recognized the struggle for equal rights for women.

The Coast Guard Academy celebrates the event with the theme “Strengthening Our Communities” by hosting various Coast Guard and regional community groups on campus.

“This was billed as a great opportunity for members of our Coast Guard and surrounding New London community to network and learn from the organizations that help support and strengthen Academy leadership,” said LTJG Colleen Jones, Assistant Civil Rights Officer at the Academy and the event organizer.

The various organizations in attendance were the Greater New Haven National Organization of Women, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Connecticut, National Naval Officers Association, Academy Women, Toastmasters, CG Educational Services, CG Child Development Center, and the League of Women Voters.

April 09, 2016 Regimental Review in honor of CDR Merle James Smith, Jr. USCGA (Ret.) and 13 Gun Salute.

Categories: American History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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