Last week, we wrote about the ever-increasing Social Security Disability application wait times, and how it was affecting applicants across the country. Data recently released by the Social Security Administration has expanded on this growing problem: the agency reports that threats to kill or injury administrative law judges or staff who are intricately involved in the Social Security application process have increased by 18 percent over the past year. However, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue is not confident that this is a problem that will be solved any time soon.
Over the past year, there have been approximately 80 threats made against Social Security officials. The threats have been widely varied: one man called a congress office and said he was going to "take his guns and shoot employees" in the Social Security hearing office while another said he was "ready to join the Taliban and hurt some people".
While some of these threats may seem laughable, administrative judge Randall Frye urges that officials take them seriously. "I'm not sure the number is as significant as the kind of threats being made," he said. "There seem to be more threats of serious bodily harm, not only to the judge but to the judge's family." While there have been no reports of physical harm this year, it has occurred in the past, such as when a Los Angeles judge was hit over the head with a chair during a Social Security hearing.
Currently, the Social Security Administration estimates that almost two million people are waiting on Social Security Disability applications. Many of them will wait for at least two years before they will see a dime. However, Commissioner Michael Astrue has said that an increasing number of claims and an aging population means that the agency is not on track to meet its 2013 goal of resolving claims within nine months.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Social Security judges face growing number of violent threats from frustrated claimants", Sam Hananel, 15 November 2010