In light of the recent announcement that the Obama Administration intends to utilize the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Representative Payee database to feed the names of people with psychiatric disabilities requesting assistance in managing their financial affairs into the National Instant Criminal Background Check system to prevent firearms purchases, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network has grave concerns as to the precedent this sets regarding the rights of people with disabilities.
In the aftermath of the tragic shootings in San Bernardino, Newton and elsewhere, many have sought to scapegoat people with psychiatric disabilities for mass shootings, contrary to a wealth of evidence in the scientific literature demonstrating no link between mental health and violence. People with psychiatric disabilities are already far more likely to be the victims of violence than people without disabilities, and deserve better than to be stigmatized by inaccurate and harmful rhetoric.
The representative payee system is designed for the sole purpose of allowing individuals to select a trusted person to assist them in managing their finances. The precedent of deeming an individual incompetent to assert any other right as a result of representative payee status is deeply concerning and might lead to further restrictions on key rights, such as voting or parenting, in the future. The proposed measure might also make it less likely that those who require financial assistance will be willing to utilize the SSA’s representative payee system.
Such a proposal tells Autistic Americans, seniors with dementia, youth with Down Syndrome leaving school and people with countless other psychiatric and neurological disabilities of all kinds that struggling to manage their finances means they are to be deemed incompetent in other areas of life as well. This is unacceptable.
We urge the Obama Administration and the Social Security Administration to reconsider this course of action and remove this measure from further consideration.