Social Security Judge Violent Threats Go Up

By Jason Beahm on November 18, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Social Security disability cases are becoming increasingly contentious. The Social Security judges who hear the cases have recently been facing violent threats from angry claimants upset over the process itself or denial of benefits. Fortunately no judges have been hurt this year, but there have been plenty of past incidents. It's a somewhat strange and ironic trend, especially considering that if you're healthy enough to physically menace a judge, you're probably healthy enough to show up for work.

According to The Associated Press, there were 80 threats to kill or harm Social Security judges or their staff last year alone. The data was collected by the Social Security Administration, which noted an 18 percent spike in such threats.

The threats are often violent and specific, with one claimant stating that he was going to "take his guns and shoot employees" in the Social Security hearing office. Another told a judge that he was a sniper in the military and "would go take care of the problem." March and August saw a massive increase in such incidents: 50 of them. One threat involved a Pittsburgh claimant threatening suicide outside the hearing office, or, alternatively, to fly a plane into the building.

Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said the agency is making progress, but a 2013 goal of resolving claims within nine months may not be come to fruition due to rising claims amid the recession and an aging population.

One can certainly understand the frustration with the Social Security Administration, but it is never worth turning to threats or violence. According to SSA spokeswoman Trish Nicasio, the agency "[Takes] appropriate steps to protect our employees and visitors while still providing the level of face-to-face service the public expects and deserves." Visitors face screening prior to entering SSA offices and the reception desks are equipped with duress alarms that can immediately notify a guard in case of an event.

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