Gov. Jan Brewer says she’s troubled that an adult son’s mental illness is again in the news, with a newspaper reporting that federal authorities investigated whether Ronald Brewer improperly received Social Security disability benefits while his mother had a role in his receiving the benefits.
Brewer said in a statement that the U.S. Justice Department recently told her lawyer the investigation is closed, and The Arizona Republic reported Thursday that “sources familiar with the investigation” said prosecutors had decided against filing charges.
Brewer, a Republican who has clashed with the federal government over illegal immigration and border security, said she believed word of the investigation was leaked in a “cowardly pursuit against my ill son, in a clear effort to bully and try to discredit me for their political purposes.”
The U.S. Justice Department declined Thursday to confirm or deny that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Nevada had investigated payment of $75,000 of benefits to Ronald Brewer, as was reported by the Republic.
Ronald Brewer, now 48, has been hospitalized in the state mental hospital for most of the past two decades after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1990 in a 1989 sexual assault case.
The Republic reported that the precise nature of the investigation could not be determined but that federal law was changed in 1995 to bar Social Security payments to anyone institutionalized after being found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Also, a court commissioner had directed Brewer to direct her son’s benefits toward the cost of hospitalization, the newspaper reported.
The Social Security Administration declined to comment on Ronald Brewer’s benefits and did not immediately respond to an inquiry about eligibility for people institutionalized for being acquitted by reason of insanity. A chart on the agency’s web site related to benefits for people acquitted by reason of insanity wasn’t clear on how it might apply to Ronald Brewer’s case.
Brewer “has been in regular communication with the Social Security Administration, and the governor has actively filled out paperwork, emailed and called at every step,” Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said Thursday. “Because of that, she has no doubt that the SSA has always had full knowledge of Ron’s circumstances, whereabouts and resulting eligibility status.”
The state Department of Health Services, which oversees the Arizona State Hospital, said patient confidentiality concerns prevented it from responding to questions about Ronald Brewer.
Brewer said her son’s benefits went to his care and well-being, that the family complied with all laws requiring payment for his hospital and that he no longer receives Social Security benefits. She also said federal eligibility requirements were confusing and that his status and benefits had changed over the years.
To the family’s knowledge, Brewer said, “my son has never received any Social Security benefits to which he was not entitled.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Alisa Finelli declined to confirm or deny whether there is or was an investigation involving Brewer and her son.
Ronald Brewer’s mental illness has been reported previously since Brewer took over as governor in January 2009, first when she was able to restore some mental health funding that was on the chopping block and then 15 months ago after a judge denied Ronald Brewer’s request to seal records of his court case.
The newspaper printed Brewer’s entire 1,100-word statement alongside its article. The governor’s office released the statement Thursday to The Associated Press.
The Republic’s package also included a separate story on the Republic’s inquiry. It said the newspaper began looking into the matter in mid-November 2010, after the 2010 general election, after learning that federal authorities were investigating Ron Brewer’s benefits.
Brewer, a Republican who became governor in January 2009 when her predecessor resigned, was elected in November 2010 to a four-year term.