October 6, 2022

Mentally challenged can be “walking targets”

A horrifying story from Philadelphia has brought to light the complexity of the issue of autonomy. Paroled murderer Linda Ann Weston dragged several mentally challenged adults along to Social Security offices to sign off as their representative payee – someone who helps manage their monthly benefits of between US$600 and $900, authorities say.

A horrifying story from Philadelphia has brought to light the complexity of the issue of autonomy. Paroled murderer Linda Ann Weston dragged several mentally challenged adults along to Social Security offices to sign off as their representative payee – someone who helps manage their monthly benefits of between US$600 and $900, authorities say. Weston, previously found mentally unfit to stand trial, was arrested after her Philadelphia landlord found 4 starving, mentally disabled adults in a basement crawl space, one chained to a boiler. They also found her burned, severely abused teenage niece trapped in a closet. Since then, police have learned that another disabled woman died under Weston’s supervision in Virginia, of severe malnutrition and meningitis.

The case shows the vulnerability of the disabled if family and friends do not protect them. One expert says their Social Security cheques lure predators. “Anyone with a cognitive impairment is a walking target,” for Social Security fraud, said Nora Baladerian, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist who works with disabled victims of crime. “It’s not just the money. It’s sexual abuse. It’s physical assault.”

While such crimes are shocking, and neighbours attempt to get authorities involved when they suspect wrongdoing, fraud and abuse can continue for years. Police are often reluctant to pursue crimes involving disabled because they have difficulty communicating with them, Baladerian says. However, she argues that shouldn’t be an obstacle. “It’s no more of a challenge than dealing with elder abuse or children, who have difficulty talking like adults,” she said. “And you’re a cop. You can go to Social Security and see who’s cashing that check.” ~ AP, Oct 22

Mentally challenged can be “walking targets”
Jared Yee
autonomy
disability
disabled
mentally disabled
US