WASHINGTON - Judges who hear Social Security disability cases are facing a growing number of violent threats from claimants angry about being denied benefits or frustrated at lengthy delays in processing claims.

There were at least 80 threats to kill or harm administrative law judges or staff in the past year - an 18 percent increase over the previous reporting period, according to data collected by the agency.

The data were released to the Association of Administrative Law Judges and made available to The Associated Press.

One claimant in Albuquerque, N.M., called his congressman's office to say he was going to "take his guns and shoot employees" in the Social Security hearing office. In Eugene, Ore., a man who was denied benefits said he is "ready to join the Taliban and hurt some people."

A Senate subcommittee is to hear testimony today at a hearing in Akron, Ohio, about the rising number of threats, as well as the status of the huge backlog in applications for disability benefits for people who can't work because of medical problems. - AP

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