Many Veterans throughout the United States use firearms for recreation, protection, and/or employment. Often, those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are reluctant to seek treatment and apply for VA disability benefits because they fear doing so will cause them to lose their right to own a gun.
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VA Disability Ratings and Gun Ownership
Gun ownership for people with PTSD is a complicated topic. As with other types of mental health disorders, there are varying levels of PTSD. Someone with mild symptoms of PTSD who is getting regular treatment may be able to hold a job, maintain relationships, and otherwise function with minimal impairment. On the opposite end of the spectrum, severe PTSD symptoms can cause hallucinations, delusions, and aggressive or socially inappropriate behavior that makes normal activities impossible and causes a person to be a real threat to themselves or others.
VA disability ratings for PTSD can be 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100%. A Veteran's gun ownership is not restricted simply because he or she receives a higher PTSD disability rating, and Veterans with 100% PTSD ratings typically retain their gun rights.
In some cases where Veterans have severe mental health symptoms, the VA may determine they are incompetent to manage their financial affairs, and a fiduciary is appointed to manage their benefits. When this happens, the VA must report the individual to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System run by the FBI, and they will no longer be able to purchase firearms.The Brady Act of 1993 prohibits the sale of firearms to certain individuals, including beneficiaries the VA determines are incompetent.
The ability to purchase firearms is an issue only if the VA appoints a fiduciary to manage a Veteran's benefits. To appoint a fiduciary, the VA must propose a rating of incompetence. If desired, however, Veterans can appeal the decision to appoint a fiduciary by providing evidence that they are able to manage their benefits without assistance. A successful appeal would allow the Veteran to maintain benefits and keep their right to own a gun.
If a finding of incompetency is upheld, the VA can also grant relief from the Brady Act. An amendment to the Brady Act obligates the VA to provide incompetent beneficiaries the opportunity to request relief from the reporting requirements the Brady Act imposes. This means a finding of incompetency will not always restrict a Veteran's right to purchase firearms if the Veteran requests an exemption.
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The VA does not automatically report Veterans who apply for disability benefits based on a mental health diagnosis, and no particular PTSD or other mental health rating prohibits a Veteran from purchasing or owning firearms. Privacy concerns shouldn’t keep you from accessing needed benefits you’ve earned in service of your country. If you are concerned about seeking service connection for a mental health condition or increasing your mental health rating for fear of losing your gun rights, our legal team can explain your options and help you determine the best way to proceed. Contact the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.