January 6, 2016
In response to the President’s address on proposed executive actions regarding gun control, the National Council on Disability (NCD) --an independent nonpartisan federal agency that provides counsel to the President, Congress and other federal agencies regarding disability policy – expresses continued concern regarding any future rulemaking effort to link one’s need for a representative payee to manage Social Security benefits with the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and cautions the Social Security Administration and Department of Justice to narrowly construe any such effort so as to preclude expansion through regulation of those who are prevented from purchasing guns. Including anyone beyond those who are currently prohibited from gun purchase under existing law in such an effort would advance an inaccurate and discriminatory inference that equates the need for assistance in managing finances with a presumption of incapacity in other areas of life. Selection of a representative payee should not lead to the curtailment of constitutional rights.
NCD is heartened by the proposal to increase by $500 million the nation’s investment in mental health services, and urge that its application be toward resources and services that advance community-based mental health care that safeguards human dignity and respects individual autonomy. And although the President was careful to correctly note that people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of a crime rather than perpetrators of it and that gun deaths by suicide claims the lives of far too many people with mental illness who are in crisis, the conflation of mental health disabilities and gun violence continues as a dangerous myth, which in each instance of its use, exacerbates harmful stereotypes about mental health disabilities and increases the level of stigma associated with seeking and receiving mental health treatment.
As an agency whose mission is focused on enhancing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families, it is important to note that NCD takes no position with respect to many of the often debated issues around the availability of guns in our society. However, linking the need for a representative payee with a presumption of incapacity to exercise any right sets a dangerous precedent that undermines the goals of the ADA: equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.
NCD will pursue meetings with both the Social Security Administration and the Department of Justice prior to their promulgation of proposed rules, and looks forward to carefully advising both agencies in line with our mission.
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