Gun Background Checks to be Extended to Social Security Beneficiaries with a Mental Illness

by | Published on Feb 3, 2016 | Social Security Disability

Social security disability benefits for mental illness are granted on the basis of a thorough review of the applicant’s medical records. It is difficult for an applicant to present the nature of his or her mental illness to examiners because the illness is not visible. A disability attorney could assist an applicant in this regard, and using medical record review service for attorneys, identify whether the applicant’s mental disorder is listed in the SSA’s Blue Book that contains a list of impairments eligible for disability benefits.

In recent news, the U.S. president’s initiative to reduce gun violence is likely to have a major impact on many SS beneficiaries with some form of mental illness.

On January 6, 2015 President Barack Obama unveiled certain executive measures on gun control that included expanding background checks, emphasizing the need for “a sense of urgency” about gun violence. Earlier, on January 4 the White House released a fact sheet that previewed the executive gun control. One important feature of the new controls is the inclusion of “information from the Social Security Administration in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm.” Obama’s effort is to ban gun possession for Social Security beneficiaries considered incapable of managing their own finances. The ban is expected to cover people with “subnormal intelligence or mental illness,” “incompetency,” or some unspecified “condition” or “disease. This ban is included in the “mental health” aspects of Obama’s executive gun control.

If Social Security uses the same standard as the Veterans Administration (VA) for the background check, millions of its beneficiaries could be affected. In the U.S, around 2.7 million adults receive monthly benefits from the SSA for mental health problems, a probably higher risk category for gun ownership. Another 1.5 million have their finances managed by their representatives for a variety of reasons.

The White House fact sheet pointed out that:

  • Current law prohibits individuals from buying a gun if they pose danger to themselves or others due to a mental health issue, or are unable to manage their own affairs.
  • The SSA will begin the rulemaking process to ensure that appropriate information in its records is reported to NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System), which is used to prevent gun sales to drug addicts, criminals, illegal immigrants and others.
  • The reporting that SSA, in consultation with the Department of Justice, is expected to require will cover the relevant records of the approximately 75,000 people each year who are identified with a mental health issue, receive disability benefits and are incapable of managing those benefits due to their mental disability, or who have been found by a federal court or state to be legally incompetent.
  • The rulemaking will also provide a means for people to seek relief from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm for reasons associated with mental health.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website has not yet put up any proposed rulemaking pending review. Before SSA can publish a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), OMB approval is required.

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