Hopefully this will answer some questions.
The Tech came out in early December saw the problems (I had taken pictures) and said that it was probably the T-Con board. This board supposedly controls the timing and lighting of the TV.
The same tech came back out on 12/20/12 and replaced the T-Con board and the flat cable inside the TV. The tech said if that didn't fix it, there wasn't much else to replace other than the panel.
So he leaves and about 30 minutes later it happens again and actually starts ghosting on the right side of the TV as well. As a result, I start running all of the tests and taking all of the pictures that the tech said he would need to request a new panel. I communicate with the tech that afternoon and he uploads all of the new pictures up to my case.
Here's where it gets fun...
My TV went out of warranty on 1/8/13. I didn't think it would matter since the first repair was initiated under warranty. Well emailed the tech on 1/15/13 and all he said was that they denied the panel replacement. While I was really ticked off that the tech didn't call or e-mail me the denial while the TV was still under warranty, I tried to keep my cool and I'm glad I did.
This started multiple chats with Samsung, which were cumulatively more than 4 hours. After telling my story in more than a half a dozen chats and being told the problem had been resolved (every time), I was able to get them to authorize the parts and labor "out of warranty". However, the last chat consisted of me on the phone with the tech, telling me exactly what to type in the chat window.
I found out during the final chat with the tech on the phone with me that while the service center can authorize the parts and labor, I found out that only the engineering area can authorize the shipment of a panel (isn't this a part?). As a result, the tech had to call Samsung directly after all of my chats. I was assured that it had to be the tech, I couldn't call the engineers myself. All of the sudden, keeping my cool and not losing it on the tech when he didn't tell me the panel was denied worked in my favor.
The tech ended up spending another 30 minutes on the phone with Samsung but finally got the panel authorized and they are coming out tomorrow to replace it.
Here's my advice to anyone else who tries.
1. Always register your TV, it gives you and extra 3-month warranty. My original went out in October.
2. Establish a case on line with Samsung. You can upload pictures, receipts and describe the problem. This is the only way to get the process started and it's pretty painless.
3. Always give your case number at the start of the chat. they can pull it up and review it.
4. Always cut and paste all of your chats to WORD or some other pad. These chats also have a reference number that can be given at the start of your next chat and reviewed by the agent (trust me, it's going to take more than one). This will save you a ton of time so you don't have to re-explain it every time it doesn't get resolved.
5. Establish a relationship with your tech and send them the transcript of every chat you have. I honestly could not have gotten it done without their help and in the end, if you require a panel replacement, they are the ones that will have to push it through Samsung engineering.
After all of this, at this point, I still don't know if the panel replacement is going to fix the problem. You're probably wondering (I know I am) why didn't Samsung just replace the TV, this has got to be costing them more.
I hope this helps somebody else.