Traverse City Record-Eagle


August 31, 2011

Building crasher receives benefits

Douglas McCallum drove car into Soc. Security office

TRAVERSE CITY — A Kingsley man who crashed his van into the Social Security Administration Office in Traverse City "in a fit of rage" over repeated disability claim denials finally had his claim approved.

Douglas McCallum, 47, stands to receive about $1,000 a month in Social Security disability benefits, despite pending criminal charges for damaging the SSA office building and sign.

McCallum told the Record-Eagle he "just lost it" on July 3 when he drove his van over the Social Security office sign on Munson Avenue, then twice backed his van through the closed building's entrance.

At the time McCallum said a back injury prevented him from working and he was destitute after Social Security officials for six years denied his claims for disability payments.

Claims decisions are not made at the Traverse City office, said Robert Simpson, district manager for the Social Security Administration.

"People who are allowed Social Security, we pay them based on their disability factors, and if Mr. McCallum is eligible we would go ahead and pay him," Simpson said. "Of course, we are always bothered when people get benefits that have harmed other people, but it's the law."

Simpson said he was speaking in general and declined to answer questions specific to McCallum.

McCallum faces a pair of felony malicious destruction of property charges, each of which carries a maximum punishment of five years behind bars.

Traverse City attorney Janet Mistele filed a notice of an insanity defense for McCallum, and he was referred to the center for forensic psychiatry for an evaluation regarding criminal responsibility.

Mistele declined to comment Tuesday on McCallum's disability award. McCallum did not return calls for comment.

Grand Traverse County Prosecuting Attorney Alan Schneider confirmed McCallum was granted disability, but said the decision is not relevant to the criminal case and is unlikely to arise at trial.

The average disability payment is $1,000 a month, but McCallum's financial windfall may not last.

Disability payments stop when a person is convicted of a crime and sent to jail or prison, Simpson said. Reinstatement of payments can require a new eligibility review, depending on the length of jail or prison term.

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