The growing backlog of Social Security Disability claims and the long time period to process claims have attributed to an increasing number of violent threats against judges who hear Social Security disability cases. Members of Congress heard about the rising number of threats from a Senate subcommittee field hearing on Monday.
A large number of people who have qualified for Social Security Disability Income have had to wait over two years to receive their first payment and nearly 2 million people are in the process to see if they qualify for the benefits. Lawmakers who heard the stories of claimants told the Social Security Commissioner that efforts to reduce the backlog have not stopped the suffering of people who are not able to work because of medical problems.
According to the Social Security Administration violent threats against administrative law judges and staff are up 18 percent in comparison to last year. The Administration recorded 80 threats to kill or harm this past year, and fifty of the threats occurred between March and August. One woman threatened to commit suicide outside of a Social Security hearing office or fly a plane into Social Security Administration building. Another claimant called his congressmen and informed his representative that he was going to shoot Social Security employees. Another claimant who claimed he was a sniper in the military told an administrative law judge he “would go take care of the problem.”
Judges have not been harmed this year, but judges have been hurt in previous years. A New York judge was punched while going to work by a claimant, and a judge in Los Angeles was hit in the head with a chair at a hearing. There are around 1,400 judges that hear Social Security disability cases, and every building that houses a judge is staffed by at least one security guard.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Social Security Judges Face Growing Number of Violent Threats from Frustrated Claimants,” Sam Hananel, 11/15/10