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Blog posts : "va"

THE WAR ON OUR VETERANS

May 21, 2013

With Memorial Day approaching Americans should be preparing to honor our veterans and military heroes currently fighting for us as well as remembering those we have lost. This honor should be especially due from our own government that has sent these brave men and women off to war. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. It is clear that the Federal government has declared war on our veterans and is intent on denying them the very Constitutional rights they fought to protect.

          First there is the ever widening scandal involving the systematic denial of veterans Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and their rights to due process under the provisions of the Fifth Amendment. This is being orchestrated by the VA which sends out letters to veterans telling them that because of physical or mental disabilities the VA is going to declare them incompetent to handle their own financial affairs and appoint a fiduciary to represent them.

          Then in the same letter the veterans are told that “A determination of incompetency will prohibit you from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition. If you knowingly violate any of these prohibitions, you may be fined, imprisoned, or both pursuant to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Pub.L.No. 103-159, as implemented at 18, United States Code 924(a)(2).”

          An estimated 150,000 veterans are now on the NICS background check list and cannot legally purchase firearms. I believe that the vast majority of them do not belong on the list and many of the veterans don’t know why they are there or even that they have been placed on the list. The only legitimate reasons for veterans to lose Second Amendment Rights is if  they have been convicted of a felony, are known drug addicts, or been found to be mentally ill to a point where they are a danger to themselves or others.

          The veterans that are being represented by the United States Justice Foundation (USJF) are reporting to us that they are being declared incompetent for having minor depression, PTSD, or simply because they let their spouses pay the family bills.  Some veterans are reporting that if they try to fight the VA determination of incompetence the VA either threatens to withhold their payments or actually has done so. This is extortion since many veterans rely on their VA payments to feed themselves and their families.

          The VA has refused to respond to several requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for information about the criteria being used to declare veterans incompetent and deny them their Second Amendment rights. The USJF has filed a suit to force the VA to turn over this information and will soon be filing a class action suit on behalf of veterans to stop the whole process.

          This suit is the last chance these veterans may have since the bill introduced by Senator Richard Burr (R.NC) to protect the gun rights of veterans was recently defeated by the Democrats in the Senate.

          There are at least three other attacks taking place on our veterans. The first has been the subject of a series of reports by the Fox News and ABC affiliates in Dallas, Texas which last fall reported that veterans going to the VA hospital were either having to wait for months to get treatment for serious illnesses or in some cases being denied effective treatment entirely. Two veterans were found to have committed suicide, one on the hospital grounds, because they were not being properly treated for their severe problems.

          The second problem for our wounded warriors has been exposed in a series of reports by the Colorado Springs Gazette. According to the paper an extraordinary number of veterans who have received traumatic wounds, been treated and latter returned to their units, have ultimately received less than honorable discharges from the military for alleged misconduct. Once that happens, the soldiers can no longer receive treatment from the VA for their wounds or illnesses and they can’t receive any other benefits.

          Reporter Dave Philipps stated in his article that: “It doesn't take serious misconduct to be discharged and lose a lifetime of benefits. The Gazette found troops cut loose for small offenses that the Army acknowledges can be symptoms of TBI and PTSD. Some soldiers missed formation a handful of times or smoked marijuana once. Some were discharged for showing up late or missing appointments. Some tested positive once for drugs, then were deployed to combat zones because the Army needed the troops, only to be discharged for the drug offense when they returned.”

          In other words, wounded soldiers who have problems because of their injuries are rewarded for their combat service by getting kicked out of the military so the government will not have to fulfill its obligation to treat them.

          Last, but certainly not least is the horrendous treatment the 32 members of the army who were wounded in the terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas on November 5, 2009. Since the Pentagon was ordered to be politically correct and label the attack by jihadist Nidal Milak Hasan as workplace violence instead of the obvious terrorist attack it was the soldiers who survived have been denied the Purple Heart medal for the wounds they received and denied the financial benefits that come with it.

According to a report on the NBC affiliate in Dallas some soldiers can barely afford to feed their families, yet Hasan has received his regular military pay since he was arrested and awaiting trial. The total pay so far is $268,000. His family has access to this money so our government is taking good care of the family of an Islamic terrorist and ignoring the families of our wounded soldiers. By the way, I join with the families of the 13 soldiers who died in the attack in asking why this man has not yet been tried for his crimes.

I am outraged by these actions of our government that dishonor our veterans and the debt we owe to them. This is developing into an additional scandal for the Obama administration yet many people are unaware that this is even happening. Please help me spread the word.

To my fellow veterans on this Memorial Day I can only say thank you for your service and I believe the American people will not let you be forgotten.

UPDATE ON VETERANS’ GUN RIGHTS ISSUE

April 2, 2013

Our investigation into the plight of our military veterans and the assault on their Second and Fifth Amendment rights continues to uncover a disturbing pattern that confirms that the VA is violating the Constitutional rights of America’s heroes on a daily basis. The investigation included two separate requests to the VA under the federal Freedom of Information Act. We asked for the criteria used for appointing a fiduciary for veterans to handle their financial affairs and for information on the criteria for adding such veterans to the list of Americans ineligible to buy firearms. The legal deadline for a response from the VA has passed and our requests have been totally ignored. This does not surprise me because it is obvious that the VA has much to hide.

         Between the information we are receiving from veterans around the country and our research of the law and history of the VA fiduciary program we have come up with a timeline of what has happened and is happening to our veterans. While the VA fiduciary program has been in place for years it was designed to appoint someone, usually a family member, to handle the VA payments for veterans who were unable to handle these financial matters themselves because of some type of severe mental problems such as dementia.

          There have been problems with the system from the beginning, but the problems regarding the Second amendment rights of veterans are much more recent. In 1993 Congress passed the Brady Bill that mandated a national background check system that was designed to keep convicted felons and those individuals declared mentally defective and found to be a danger to themselves or others from being able to legally purchase firearms.

          In 2007 the Congress passed some ill advised amendments to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The amendments were in response to the Virginia Tech shooting, (which did not involve a veteran) and were designed to make sure that people adjudicated to be “mentally defective” were on the list. However, the disqualification criteria remained the same, a person had to be found to be a danger to themselves or others or “lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.”

          Since that amendment was adopted the VA has decided that all veterans that it declares “incompetent” to handle their VA payments are also ineligible to purchase or own firearms.  There is absolutely nothing in the NICS criteria that states that those with physical disabilities belong on the list of individuals prohibited from owning firearms, yet the VA specifically states in their letter to veterans that this is part of their criteria. In addition, our investigation has found that the VA is using reasons such as minor depression, minor PTSD, and even minor short term memory loss as grounds for declaring veterans “mentally defective.”  In some cases, the veterans are not even given a reason.

          It has also become clear that there has been a rapid acceleration over the last few years in the efforts by the VA to declare veterans incompetent and deny them the right to possess firearms. Veterans who go to the VA for routine checkups or for treatment of physical illnesses are routinely asked if they own firearms. In fact, this in apparently a required question that all VA employees must ask of all veterans.

          In other words, virtually anything can trigger an attempt by the VA to declare a veteran incompetent and deny them their Second Amendment rights. The Constitutional requirements of due process are completely ignored and veterans must fight this on their own at their own expense. To make matters even worse, we are receiving reports from veterans that if they even attempt to resist the declaration of incompetence, the VA is threatening to, and in some cases actually withholding the monetary payments to the veterans unless they agree to the VA declaration.

          Our research has determined that there are at least four separate categories of veterans that the United States Justice Foundation needs to represent in either administrative actions or in court. They are:

1. Veterans who have received a letter from the VA threatening to declare them incompetent, but no decision on competence have been finalized.

2. Veterans who have received the letter and been declared incompetent and added to NICS list for unjust reasons.

3. Veterans who have been declared incompetent and had it reversed, but are still on the NICS list.

4. Veterans who have received the VA letter and are having their VA funds withheld because they are fighting to keep from being declared incompetent.

      The situation with the veterans and their rights has not gone completely unnoticed in Congress. Last year an amendment was offered in the Senate to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act to stop the VA from arbitrarily adding veterans to the NICS list. It was opposed by the White House and failed to pass. Just a few weeks ago Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina introduced S 572, the “Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act”. It is a good piece of legislation to protect veterans and all members of Congress should be urged to support it. Unfortunately, so far only 11 Senators have signed on as co-sponsors and none of them are Democrats.

      In the meantime, any veterans with information on this or who need help should contact me immediately at usjf.net.

VETERANS ARE FIGHTING BACK

March 15, 2013

Since I wrote the article titled “Disarming America’s Heroes” I have been inundated with emails and phone calls from veterans and the families of veterans. The horror stories I am hearing are proof that the VA and the Obama administration have launched an all out assault on the Constitutional rights of our nation’s wounded warriors and other veterans.

          Veterans are being declared incompetent not because they have a serious mental illness that makes them a danger to themselves or others, but because they have a physical disability resulting from their service in the armed forces or because they simply let their spouses pay the family bills.

          If veterans have minor issues with PTSD, have expressed that they are depressed sometimes, or even in the case of Vietnam veterans admit that they are getting older and sometimes forget to pay their bills on time, the bureaucrats at the VA will seek to declare them incompetent. (I am a 65 year old veteran and often forget where I put my car keys, does that make me incompetent to handle my own financial affairs and even worse mean that I can’t own a firearm?) According to the VA it apparently does.

          All of this has resulted in America’s heroes being declared incompetent by a process that blatantly violates their rights to due process under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Then, for reasons that have not been explained these same veterans are also being denied their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

          Many of the veterans I have heard from were initially both scared because of what was happening to them, and hurt because it is their own government that is causing this fear. After all, when they joined the military they signed a blank check to their country to defend it and its Constitution even if it cost them their lives. Yet, now their own government is turning on them and taking from them the very Constitutional rights they fought to preserve.

          However, now something else is happening; the fear and betrayal that these veterans felt is turning to anger. Their training and instincts as warriors is coming forth and they are once again prepared to fight for their rights and the rights of other Americans. I think that the Obama administration has picked a fight with the wrong dog. Veterans are fighting back.

As Executive Director of the United States Justice Foundation (www.usjf.net) I am committed to helping these veterans and protecting their Constitutional rights. We are putting together a top notch legal team that is already exploring several potential avenues including administrative procedures and a class action lawsuit.

          It will be a huge undertaking since we have veterans who have just received the letter telling them that the VA is considering declaring them incompetent, veterans who have already been declared incompetent and lost their Second Amendment Rights, and even veterans who have gotten the incompetence ruling reversed, but are still blacklisted when it comes to buying firearms. There will be no charge to any veterans or their families that we represent. We will raise the money to finance our efforts from private sources.

          There are those detractors who claim that the letter from the VA is not real even though several reporters have contacted me and said they have talked to representatives of the VA and it is confirmed that it is sending out these letters. The VA apparently downplays this by saying it is not a big deal. I suggest that to the veterans who are losing their rights it is a very big deal and we intend to join them in the fight.

          If you are a veteran or have a friend or family member who is a veteran and has received one of these letters or already been declared incompetent, please contact me and the USJF. We intend to come out swinging. Our veterans deserve nothing less.

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