THE HILL — The Social Security Administration (SSA) is proposing to report people who receive disability benefits and have a mental health condition to the FBI’s background check system.
The proposal, which stems from a memorandum that President Obama issued in 2013, would essentially block some people with severe mental health problems from buying guns.
The SSA, which will propose the rule in Thursday’s edition of the Federal Register, says it plans to notify disability beneficiaries who might be reported and establish a process for them to appeal their placement in the FBI’s background check system.
The proposal is just the latest attempt by the Obama administration to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
Similar efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have been met with controversy. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has accused the VA of reporting veterans to the FBI simply because they cannot manage their personal finances and must be assigned a fiduciary.
According to Grassley, 99 percent of the people the FBI prohibits from owning guns because they are considered “mentally defective” come from the VA.
Now, the SSA is proposing to take similar precautions with people who receive disability insurance because they are unable to work due to mental health disorders.
“It appears that just like the VA, SSA’s regulatory action will not require the government to first prove that the individual is a danger to self or others,” Grassley wrote last July in a letter to Carolyn Colvin, acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration.
“Is the SSA using the VA’s regulatory standard as a template for reporting names to the [FBI]?” he asked. “If not, in what ways is the SSA’s regulatory scheme different from the VA’s?”
Some of the mental conditions the SSA screens for include schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, personality disorders, intellectual disabilities, anxiety-related disorders, substance addiction disorders and autistic disorders.
Depending on the severity of their condition, people with mental health disorders may qualify for disability insurance.
The public has 60 days to comment about the proposal.
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