JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The agents who requested information about Conceal Carry Weapons permits from the Missouri Department of Revenue and the Missouri State Highway Patrol testified before a contentious Senate Appropriations Committee today, shedding more light on the unfolding controversy involving the dissemination of personal data linked to the permits of potentially thousands of Missourians.
Keith Schilb, the special agent from the Office of the Inspector General working with the Social Security Administration, told committee members that he requested CCW information on three separate occasions from different state entities, but that the information was never copied or even viewed.
The first occasion was in 2011. He received a disk with the data from the Highway Patrol, but the disk was not compatible with their system and could not be read. Schilb testified the disk was subsequently destroyed.
After returning from extended medical leave, Schilb made a second request for the disk, but the information was not in a readable form and Schilb — concerned it wasn’t properly formatted and therefore inaccurate — destroyed the second disk.
A third request for the disk was made in February of 2013, but before Schilb acquired it, his immediate superior informed him that they were no longer pursuing the information.
According to Schilb, his goal was to compare CCW permit holders with a list of individuals collecting Social Security disability benefits because of a mental illness. Schilb said that collecting mental illness disability benefits while also holding a CCW permit “could be an indicator of fraud.”
“We wanted to match up the two lists and see if someone who has claimed a mental illness and collects benefits from us hasn’t done so fraudulently,” Schilb said. “The idea was to cross reference these two lists and see if anyone appeared to be defrauding [the SSA] by claiming a mental illness falsely.”
Schilb said the idea was his own, and that it came from an investigation of individual fraud from three years ago. According to Schilb, the individual in question collected benefits for a mental illness, but also held a CCW permit with no indications of a history of mental illness. Schilb said this tipped him off to potential fraud and that he felt it could be applied on a larger scale.
Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has largely led the charge in the Senate against the DOR, and repeatedly admonished Shilb and his fellow agents for attempting to collect a large set of data on a “whim.” Schaefer also voiced concerns that permit holders with mental illnesses might be unfairly targeted.
“Are you aware that the legal threshold for holding a CCW with regards to mental illness is different than the threshold for qualifying for social security benefits?” Schaefer asked Schilb during their testimony.
Schilb said the purpose was to “begin,” the process, and that an individual with a valid CCW, a mental illness diagnosis and SS benefits was not necessarily committing fraud, but that it was a “strong indicator in some cases.”
Schaefer was quick to respond.
“There are veterans in this state who have a PTSD diagnosis, who collect benefits because of that, but who also have CCW permits. That is not fraud. Collecting benefits and having a permit does not immediately indicate fraud, it can be very legal. How are you going to determine which individuals with mental illness are actually committing fraud versus those who are operating under the law? Do you examine each one of them individually, and their diagnosis, and make that determination yourself? Are you a medical doctor?”
Schaefer, an attorney, was in full prosecutor mode during the hearing, questioning both the competency and the motives of the agents involved with his questions and repeatedly raising doubts about the claims that all relevant data, as well as the SS notes associated, were destroyed appropriately.
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Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman