Gun ownership should not be the VA's focus

Alaska Older Veterans Report

Just when you thought the VA couldn’t be more offensive, we find out they are denying veterans with traumatic brain injuries and/or post traumatic stress disorders (TBI/PTSD) of their Second Amendment rights. Yes, you read this correctly, veterans asking for help to recover from service connected injuries are being deemed a danger to themselves and others and unable to handle their affairs by an unelected, appointed VA bureaucrat working for the very government agency founded to help them “re-integrate” back into peacetime civilian life.

While the vast majority of senior managers at the VA are receiving performance bonuses for a “job well done,” waiting lists disappear and veterans die. This practice is not limited to TBI/PTSD but is applied to older vets with injuries that has left them unable to write or walk and may be in need of some assistance.

Some helpful smiling clerk takes down all of the information needed to start the benefits you have earned, and disappears. In a couple of weeks, you get your much anticipated letter from the VA. Instead of the dates and amounts of your benefits you thought was contained in the letter, you find out the VA has submitted your name to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ NICS. (Hint: the C stands for Criminal.)

So, just to be fair, I have researched the available databases for some area in which the VA excels and have found one. The VA leads the nation in reporting names (veterans) to the ATF’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) which brands a veteran as a criminal for owning, buying or transporting a firearm to include ammo. You are a hero one minute and a criminal the next after your visit to the VA. The VA as of August 2011 accounted for 98 percentage of NICS submissions. With the help of the VA, veterans now account for 11 percent of all Americans on the ATF’s prohibited list of citizens with mental health issues. I bet that exceeds accepted job performance standards.

While terrorists are being read their rights, given legal consul and health care better than our vets, injured American veterans are being denied one of their civil rights without any adjudication process. After this mental health professional decides a vet is a danger to society, it’s up to the vet to prove otherwise by obtaining a letter from a doctor. Yes, your primary health care provider that works for the same VA as the clerk that put you on the list now has to take you off the list. But wait, you need psychological evaluation services first, which has a backlog (i.e. a waiting list). See the problem? Are you old enough to remember Catch 22?

The veteran is left with an untenable decision: do I need the VA services and pension more than my Second Amendment rights or not? This is soft tyranny at its worst and should not be tolerated. Veterans are not commodities to be used for political nefarious intentions but citizens who have volunteered to defend our country in a time of national need. The progressives have learned their lesson in the aftermath of Vietnam, which was not to spit on vets anymore. Passive aggressive methods are much better and harder to detect until the damage has been done.

A society that allows our borders to be overrun by drug cartel gang members with no redeeming social values and then allowed to disappear into our communities while at the very same time intentionally denying our veterans basic civil rights is a national disgrace.

It’s time for veterans to stand up and tell the elected officials veterans are not some prop for photo opportunities at Fourth of July parades, but are some of the best and brightest individuals this country has ever produced.

I have seen political ads for years about what our elected officials have done for this vet or that vet in their time of need. If I personally needed a problem fixed, I would not hesitate to use them. But the bigger question is why I should have to get my Senator or U.S. Representative involved in a problem that is systemic in nature and has been ubiquitous since the 1960s. The nature of employment at the VA and other federal agencies seems to be something that needs visiting.

Oh, if we only had a “Blue Ribbon Committee” comprised of retired federal workers who would convene in our capital for only expenses and per diem, we could solve this problem rather quickly.

Fix it and fix it now.

Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.

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