Veterans often express a common concern regarding their Second Amendment rights when we ask them about filing a disability claim for PTSD: “I don’t want to file for PTSD because I don’t want the VA to take my guns away.”
Misconceptions abound when it comes to VA benefits and the right to own guns. Some Veterans assume that a diagnosis of PTSD alone bars them from ever owning a gun, no matter how mild their symptoms. Other Veterans believe seeking treatment for their mental health condition will trigger an investigation into their ability to keep firearms. These concerns often result in Veterans under reporting their symptoms or, in some cases, refraining from seeking treatment at all. This blog looks to clear up some misunderstandings about the VA’s role in the loss of gun ownership and help Veterans feel safe when pursuing the mental health treatment and disability benefits they need.
The majority of Veterans receiving treatment, benefits, or both through the VA for mental health conditions, including PTSD, never have any problems with continuing to own and purchase firearms. The VA does not have any obligation or motivation to report every veteran who seeks treatment for mental health.
The ability to purchase firearms becomes an issue only if the VA appoints a fiduciary to help a Veteran manage their VA benefits. If that happens, the VA is required to report the Veteran to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System run by the FBI so the Veteran will no longer be able to purchase firearms.
The VA appoints a fiduciary when medical evidence indicates a Veteran cannot manage their benefits. This usually comes in the form of a notation in a medical examination report, often through compensation and pension exams. The doctor or medical professional makes a note that they don’t think the Veteran can handle their own finances, which prompts the VA to start the process of appointing a fiduciary.
The decision to appoint a fiduciary is one which can be appealed, so the Veteran does not simply have to go along with the VA’s decision. When fighting the appointment of a fiduciary, Veterans may submit a wide range of evidence, including evidence that they pay their bills on time, handle their own finances in a responsible way, or mental health evaluations disagreeing with the original assessment that they cannot manage their disability benefits.
Appealing a decision to appoint a fiduciary can come with additional hardships, including the possibility of pay being withheld until the matter is resolved. Some Veterans find themselves facing the difficult choice of allowing a fiduciary to be appointed simply because they rely on VA compensation and need to continue receiving the benefit. Often, they do not realize that the appointment of the fiduciary will come with a restriction on gun ownership until it is too late.
There has been a bill proposed to change the process of restricting gun rights for Veterans, so that an appointment of a fiduciary through the VA does not automatically come with a restriction on purchasing guns. However, until that bill is passed into law, Veterans must operate under the system currently in place. For most Veterans, seeking treatment or benefits for a mental health condition does not affect their gun rights, and if a fiduciary is appointed, the decision can be appealed.
At Berry Law, our team understands the importance of the Second Amendment and we are committed to protecting the constitutional rights of our clients. If you have ben denied your rights to own a firearm
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