Monday, July 27, 2015

Obama, Guns and Social Security Disaibility

A gun control proposal by President Barack Obama could affect millions of Social Security Disability beneficiaries who have been deemed incompetent to handle their own affairs.  As is the case with most gun issues, the idea has sparked a heated debate.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation on this topic.  This ignorance stems largely from the fact a large number of news reporters and public figures don't know much about how SSDI operates.  Since the SSA has the responsibility to insure that monies are properly used, it determines whether beneficiaries are capable of handling their own funds.  If they are deemed to be incompetent of handling their money, they are required to have a representative payee to handle their SSDI or SSI checks.  President Obama's proposal intends to report SSDI beneficiaries who have a payee to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and prevent them from owning guns. 

About 4.2 million adults receive SSDI checks that are managed by representative payees. Opponents of the President's plan argue that that being incapable of managing funds does not necessarily make a person violent or dangerous.  At first glimpse, this argument seems to make sense.  However, if you have practiced Social Security Disability Law as long as I have, you know how hard the disability determination process has become.  Claimants are routinely denied benefits at all stages of the process based on their capacity to perform simple manual tasks such as: cooking, washing dishes, washing and folding clothes and taking care of pets.  I submit that a person who alleges to be able to handle a firearm is very likely to loose his or her Social Security Disability case.  Lets face it, operating a firearm safety requires a great deal of attention and concentration --far more than its required in simple sedentary jobs.  Moreover, firing a gun requires excellent manual dexterity, coordination and eyesight: all excellent skills that can be used in a wide array of occupations.

Nonetheless, I do recall winning at least one Social Security Disability for a client who was an avid hunter.  Needless to say, it wasn't an easy one.  I would be very concerned of representing anyone in the future who insists of maintaining any hobbies associated with guns (with the obvious exception of a very low key gun collector).  

Consequently, I am not thrilled by those who are defending SSDI beneficiaries' right to bear arms. SSDI is a financial lifeline for millions of disabled Americans.  Insisting on the beneficiaries' right to bear arms, could lead to an eventual denial or cessation of their benefits. For this reason, I believe that, at this crucial point in time, protecting the economic well being of the disabled is far more important than their right to bear arms.