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Governor questioned about son's disability benefits

Although this story comes from Arizona, we thought that our Los Angeles readers may be interested in the information about the ever-changing status of Social Security laws and regulations. The federal government recently conducted a year-long investigation into Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to determine whether her son improperly received Social Security Disability and other Social Security benefits. If so, the government believed that Gov. Brewer may have played a part in her son's unlawful receipt of benefits.

The media has received few details about the investigation from either Gov. Brewer, the Social Security Administration, or the federal government. However, a report from the Arizona Republic provides background information Gov. Brewer's son, Ronald, who first began receiving Social Security benefits as a child after his father's death and continued to receive SSD benefits as an adult because of a mental illness.

In 1989, Ronald was arrested and charged with kidnapping and sexual assault. After being found not guilty by reason of insanity, he was sent to the Arizona State Hospital. As Ronald's representative payee, Gov. Brewer was ordered to direct his SSD benefit payments to the hospital to pay some of the costs of his hospitalization.

In 1995, while Ronald was still at the state hospital, there was a change in federal law which barred anyone who was institutionalized after being found not guilty by reason of insanity from receiving Social Security benefits. It is unknown if Ronald stopped receiving benefits at that time. He is still living at the hospital after an unsuccessful conditional release in 2002.

Last year, the SSA reportedly received an anonymous tip that Gov. Brewer had been involved in her son's improper receipt of over $75,000 in Social Security benefits. She has denied all of those allegations, and claims that the tip was a political attempt to derail her campaign. Her son no longer receives Social Security benefits, she said.

The outcome of the investigation is not yet known, but it seems unlikely that this story is over. We will continue to report on this issue as it develops.

Source: USA Today, "Feds probed Ariz. governor's role in son's Social Security benefits," Michael Kiefer and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Dec. 8, 2011

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