New procedures to protect SSA employees from attacks

Friday - 9/2/2011, 5:03pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Social Security Administration is putting in place a process to prevent people who pose a threat to the agency from entering its field offices.

SSA today issued an interim rule with a request for comments detailing four reasons why someone would be banned from the agency.

The agency stated it will ban any person who:

  • Physically or verbally assaults personnel or a member of the public in SSA's space;
  • Uses force or threats of force against our personnel or offices, including sending threatening letters or other communications;
  • Engages in disruptive conduct that impedes our personnel from performing their duties;
  • Engages in disruptive behavior that prevents members of the public from obtaining services from us.

"When we ban an individual, the ban will apply to all of our offices nationwide," SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue wrote in the notice. "We will ban an individual only after an agency manager determines that the individual poses a threat to the safety of our personnel or our visitors, our offices, or the operational effectiveness of the agency. We will provide the individual with written notice of the ban."

SSA stated the need for these new procedures comes from an increase in threats to its employees. It says in fiscal 2010 SSA received nearly 2,800 reports of threats to SSA employees across the nation, an increase of 43 percent from 2009.

"We respond promptly to these incidents and refer them to law enforcement for further action, when appropriate," the agency stated. "We have increased the security measures in our field and hearing offices. We are using the resources Congress provided to handle disability benefit claims more quickly and accurately; we expect these actions will minimize the anxiety that claimants may experience when they seek benefits from us."

The rule goes into effect today.

SSA stated when someone is banned from the agency, they must obtain services through another manner, whether on the phone or online.

"We will provide in-person service only if the banned individual establishes that here are no alternate means available," SSA stated. "A banned individual requesting in-person service must direct that request to the manager of the office that the individual is requesting to visit. If we determine that an office visit is warranted, we will schedule an appointment for the individual and send a certified letter notifying the individual of the date, time, and location of the appointment."

The concern about employee safety has increased over the last year or so as the political rhetoric attacking the workforce has increased.

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