By now you have probably heard about the tragic shooting in a Las Vegas courthouse on Monday. Police believe the gunman’s motive was anger over the dismissal of his Social Security benefits claim.
The problem with any news article is that the further away you are from it the less truth it contains. Yet the kernel of truth in this case is that Social Security Disability and SSI clients have had the rug pulled out from under their lives. Many people are on the edge to begin with, and they take the delays in the system personally. Some people react violently. What “the system” must take from this act is that these delays rob people of their dignity, and that to end violence the claimants must get speedy justice.
We are currently representing a claimant whose case is also at Federal Court. The problem is that the Magistrate Judge to whom it is assigned has sat on it and done nothing for three years!! While our client is not about to resort to violence, there is little that can be done to force a Federal Court Judge, an Administrative Law Judge or the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration to render a decision. While there are time limits on filing claims and appeals, there are no time limits on when decisions must be made.
I am scheduled to speak with our client and his family shortly to consider our course of action. We had previously discussed getting the press involved and this may be the perfect time to do so! Otherwise, our only legal alternative is to move for a writ of mandamus: asking the Court to order the Magistrate Judge to perform her duty and render a decision in this case. Maybe seeing what happened in Las Vegas will make he do something! It’s not what I would have wanted as the wakeup call, but a wakeup call is definitely needed.