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It Pays to Be Nice at the Social Security Office

Social Security Administration has a longstanding commitment to treating members of the public and staff with dignity and respect. While some may find the application process frustrating, claimants and their appointed representatives are also required to show “due respect” to the administrative law judge at a disability hearing. Keep in mind that this individual is the one deciding whether to approve the case. While the administrative law judge will base his or her decision on the evidence in its entirety, it should be obvious that rude or disrespectful behavior is not likely to sway the decision in your favor.

A claimant or representative who fails to show due respect at a Social Security Office rule may be subject to monetary penalties under §1176 of the Social Security Act. Moreover, Social Security Administration is responsible for protecting their personnel as well as the public. To ensure operational effectiveness, Social Security Administration strictly prohibits the use of force, threats, physical or verbal assaults in their offices (42 U.S.C. 422.901). A claimant with a diagnosis for personality disorder or other mental health problems will not be excused from behavior that compromises public safety. If an agency manager decides that you pose a threat to personnel or visitors, you may be banned from entering a Social Security Office. While you generally have a right to appear in person, special accommodations would need to be made in this situation to conduct your hearing. These accommodations could mean the hearing must be conducted via telephone, or the Social Security Office may arrange for additional security to be present at your hearing. Arguably, these arrangements could have an adverse effect on the outcome of your case, but the Administration will likely deem safety as an overriding concern.


Statement of Debra Bice, Chief Administrative Law Judge, Social Security Administration, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, October 7, 2013

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