Rights – Social Security Announces Proposed Rule on National Instant Criminal Background Check System

In January, 2016, President Obama announced a set of “New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer.” As part of this initiative, the Administration proposed to increase mental health treatment by $500 million and to take several steps to increase reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NICS is a federal database used to help identify people who are prohibited by law from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm. The law and regulations define who is subject to the mental health prohibition, including individuals who have been:

  • Involuntarily committed to a mental institution for reasons such as mental illness or drug use;
  • Found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity; or
  • Otherwise determined by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority to be a danger to themselves or others or unable to manage their own affairs, as a result of mental illness or “marked subnormal intelligence”.

Last Friday, April 29, the White House announced that the Social Security Administration will soon publish a proposed rule to report information to the NICS about individuals who have been found eligible for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits based on a mental impairment “listing” and who have a representative payee. This would include many beneficiaries with intellectual disability and autism who have representative payees.

The Arc is concerned about the well-being of all Americans. As an organization that protects and promotes the human rights of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD), The Arc is also concerned about the potential negative impact on people with disabilities and their families. The Arc’s concerns include the likelihood that the proposed rule, if implemented, could deter some people with mental impairments, including people with I/DD, from seeking access to Social Security and SSI disability benefits for fear of being added to the NICS or having their privacy violated. The Arc will be closely reviewing SSA’s proposed rule and submitting comments expressing our concerns.

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