Does Obama Executive Order Unfairly Target Social Security Disability Recipients?

In an op-ed piece for the York Dispatch, Temple University professor Mark Salzer argues that President Obama’s January 4 executive order on gun control could compromise the civil rights of citizens who receive Social Security disability benefits. The order requires the Social Security Administration to release names and other information to the national gun background check database for individuals receiving benefits because a mental health issue makes them incompetent to make decisions about finances.

Prof. Salzer asserts that mental health screenings are irrelevant to gun safety when he states that “attempts to link mental illness to gun violence toward others for whatever political, economic or personal reasons are being increasingly discredited, so [the executive order] will have no effect in this area.”

Rather, Prof. Salzer is concerned that “millions of individuals who already experience prejudice and discrimination in employment, education, housing, social relationships, parenting and other areas” may suffer additional harm to other civil rights when private information is released. He cites restrictions on the right to vote, to serve on juries, to hold public office and to be a parent as comprising “our shameful history of prejudice and discrimination” against the mentally ill.

While we would not go as far as Prof. Salzer in disavowing a connection between gun violence and mental illness, especially when it comes to mass shootings, we are concerned that this executive order paints the SSD recipients with too broad a brush. Mental illness and incapacity come in many forms. As legal counsel for SSD recipients, we understand there is a great difference between a developmentally disabled adult who is incapable of balancing a checkbook and a paranoid schizophrenic who hears voices ordering him to kill. It would be tragic if the former were conflated with the latter, especially if, as Prof. Salzer implies, it were only for political purposes.

If you are concerned about your rights as a Social Security disability recipient, talk to a knowledgeable North Carolina attorney. Call Lanier Law Group, P.A. today at 919.848.2000 to schedule a free consultation.

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