Veterans looking to secure their Second Amendment rights may want to think twice before getting help from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to manage their finances.
The Hill reports that 257,000 former members of the military have lost their right to keep and bear arms after receiving financial management help from the VA. According to two Republican senators fighting the gun ban, the VA reports to the “mental defective” category of the FBI’s background check system any veteran to whom they assign a fiduciary.
“The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is effectively a national gun ban list and placement on the list precludes the ownership and possession of firearms,” Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote in a recent letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald.
“Under the current practice, a VA finding that concludes a veteran requires a fiduciary to administer benefit payments effectively voids his Second Amendment rights,” the senators explained. “At no time in the process does the VA determine a veteran to be a danger to themself or others, a key determinant for whether someone is a ‘mental defective,’ precluding the right to own firearms.”
According to The Hill, Senator Grassley has requested that lawmakers “block the VA from continuing this practice in the upcoming budget negotiations.” He also complained about the practice in another letter sent last year to the Justice Department.
If this song and dance sounds familiar, there’s a reason. The Obama administration was harshly criticized earlier this year for using the same tactic to revoke the Second Amendment rights of Social Security beneficiaries who need help with their finances. It is now clear that this administration has been using the fiduciary excuse to ban veterans from owning firearms for much longer.
In an article outlining the practice, the Los Angeles Times quoted Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist who has studied how veterans with health problems manage their money: “Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe,” he said. “They are very different determinations.”
The article points to 30-year-old Marine veteran Steven Overman, who says his case demonstrates the flaws of judging gun safety through financial competence.
Overman’s Humvee hit a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007. The VA deemed Overman incompetent and made his wife his fiduciary after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury that weakened his memory and cognitive ability.
When he found out he was being reported to the background check system, “he gave his guns to his mother and began working with a lawyer to get them back.”
“[Target shooting is] relaxing to me,” Overman said. “It’s a break from day-to-day life. It calms me down.”
“Though his wife had managed their financial affairs since his deployment,” the LA Times reports, “Overman said he has never felt like he was a danger to himself or others.”
“I didn’t know the VA could take away your guns,” he said.