This Memorial Day Let's Ask Why The VA Is Using Strange Logic To Disarm Our Heroes

MAY 25, 2016 @ 12:48 PM
​Frank Miniter
Just weeks before Memorial Day, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, fought for an amendment that would have protected the rights of our nation’s soldiers, but he was blocked by Senate Democrats.

Grassley said, “There appears to be a troubling trend within the Department of Veterans Affairs. As of December 2015, almost 99 percent of names listed on the mental defective category for the National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS), otherwise known as the national gun-ban list, are from the VA.”

NICS is administered by the FBI. States and other federal departments send it records so the FBI can block the sale of guns to those who are prohibited by law from owning a firearm. When someone wants to buy a gun from a gun store (or other federally-licensed gun dealer) their name and social security number, along with the gun’s make, model and serial number, must be called in to the FBI’s NICS call center.

Grassley found that the VA is using this system to deny Second Amendment rights to veterans for reasons having nothing to do with whether the veteran is a danger to themselves or others.

Grassley says, “Once the VA determines that a veteran requires a fiduciary to administer benefit payments, the VA reports that veteran to the gun-ban list, resulting in a total denial of a veteran’s right to possess and own firearms. The VA has attempted to justify its actions by relying on regulations that grant limited authority to determine incompetence only in the context of financial matters: ‘Ratings agencies have sole authority to make official determinations of competency and incompetency for purposes of: insurance and…disbursement of benefits.’”

Grassley tried to bring up his amendment during the Senate debate for the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, but Senate Democrats blocked his amendment for consideration.
Grassley’s amendment would require that, before the VA reports names to NICS, the VA must legally show that the veteran is a danger to himself, herself or others. This is the standard NICS inclusions are typically judged by.

Grassley said, “Taking away the very constitutional rights without due process that veterans fought to uphold is wrong and cannot stand. The VA regulatory scheme fails to adequately protect the liberty interests of veterans. It’s a double hit for those who fought to protect the United States when my colleagues on the other side of the aisle object to even voting on this fundamental right. The VA’s actions are an example of the federal government, once again, going too far.”

Grassley says some veterans have told him they are afraid to seek care from the VA for fear of losing their Second Amendment rights. For this reason Grassley’s amendment is supported by the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Grassley has been on this issue for some time. On April 15, 2015, Grassley sent aletter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder documenting weak due process protections for veterans that he says are leading to a disproportionate number of names being submitted to NICS to prevent veterans from buying guns.

Grassley said, “My legislation is simple, straightforward, and makes perfect constitutional sense. It requires that before the VA reports names to the Department of Justice for eventual placement on the gun ban list, the VA must first find that a veteran is a danger to himself, herself, or others.”

As we celebrate Memorial Day weekend and thank our bravest for fighting for us and the freedom of others around the world ensuring our veterans have those same freedoms when they come home shouldn’t be controversial.