Many veterans in the United States suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from their time in service. If you’re one of these individuals, then you should know how that could affect your Second Amendment rights.
Every state in the country has different gun laws. So, it’s best to assess local laws or speak with a veterans’ law attorney to understand if your PTSD could stop you from owning or buying a gun.
It’s common for veterans coming home from duty to feel safer owning a gun for protection, or they may want it for recreational purposes. Gun rights are becoming more complex for veterans with PTSD. We’re here to explain more about the topic – keep reading.
In This Article About the 2nd Amendment and Veterans with PTSD:
- Veterans with PTSD
- Veterans With PTSD and Gun Rights
- What is TDIU?
- Levels of PTSD
- Receiving A 100% VA Rating For PTSD
- If I Have Been Treated for a Psychiatric, Emotional, or Mental Illness, What Information Must I Give To Receive a Handgun License?
- Why Do Veterans Think the VA Is Taking Their Guns?
- What is the Law When it Comes to Guns, Veterans, and Financial Incompetence?
- The Bottom Line When It Comes To the VA and a Veteran’s Guns
- Are You a Veteran With PTSD Who’s Concerned About Obtaining a Gun?
Veterans with PTSD
Veteran PTSD is a common anxiety disorder that affects thousands of ex-service members annually. Veterans may experience many different types of disturbing and upsetting events during active duty that can result in PTSD symptoms.
The most common factor is a pending threat. Veterans may also be distressed by witnessing tragic or horrific events or being the victim of continued harassment or military sexual assault. The latter is known as military sexual trauma or MST.
Being present in combat zones carries tremendous and continuous risk. PTSD can even result from regular events due to the context in which they happen.
PTSD can develop in anyone, and it isn’t a sign of your strength or weakness. In many cases, it’s an ex-service member’s own strength that leads them to be in a constant state of readiness to protect and act that can display itself as PTSD.
Veterans who witnessed or experienced trauma or who were injured during duty are much more likely to produce symptoms of PTSD than the general population. PTSD affects a huge number of veterans returning home from active duty.
An ex-service member may experience PTSD symptoms immediately after coming home, or they may lie dormant for months or even years after an individual has come home to safety.
PTSD symptoms can significantly affect everyday activities and make life challenging to manage.
Mental health conditions like PTSD are one of the most common issues that ex-service members experience when returning from active duty. If you’re a veteran with PTSD and would like assistance, seek help from the VA or other organizations to receive proper healthcare and therapy.
Veterans With PTSD and Gun Rights
In the United States, there aren’t many national gun laws regarding possession apart from the second amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear arms. There are always restrictions against possessing a gun under certain conditions. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 922 states that the applicant must not have been judged as a “mentally defective” or been committed to a mental institution. The same law prevents service members with a dishonorable discharge from owning firearms.
But there isn’t a direct limit against ownership if someone has a mental health diagnosis. At a national level, there is a continuing debate regarding whether the VA can state an ex-service member mentally defective for the purposes of owning a gun without any other due process.
What is TDIU?
Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) pays the same amount as a 100% rating for veterans who can’t hold down a steady job that supports them financially (known as substantially gainful employment) because of their service-connected disability. Odd jobs, which the VA calls “marginal employment,” don’t count.
Veterans are eligible for TDIU if they have:
- At least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling OR
- Two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one rated at 40% or more disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more
It’s essential to note that there’s a significant difference between the VA allowing disability benefits for mental health conditions like PTSD and the VA defining that a veteran is mentally defective. The most likely circumstance in which the VA determines an ex-service member as mentally defective is when they’ve been placed in fiduciary trustee status.
Veterans usually want to receive the highest disability rating possible to be eligible for the most compensation. Ex-service members with a 100% disability rating for PTSD may have a severe condition that prevents them from performing everyday activities and tasks. Depending on state laws, veterans with a high disability rating may face problems resulting from PTSD and gun rights.
If you are in this category, you may rather want to get TDIU for your PTSD condition. That would require multiple disabilities, but the worst condition would only have to be up to a 60% rating. A TDIU decision allows you to get the same amount of money as a 100% VA rating without the severity of any one single condition.
Levels of PTSD
Those who don’t know much about mental health may believe conditions like PTSD are black and white. They may think an individual either has PTSD or they don’t. They may not realize that there are different levels of the condition.
For example, most people don’t know that you can be rated 0% for PTSD. This means that someone has PTSD, but it isn’t severe enough to receive benefits.
As with all types of mental health conditions, there are different levels of PTSD. Someone with a mild case of PTSD who is receiving regular treatment may be able to work, foster relationships, and function effectively without much impairment.
However, severe PTSD symptoms can result in nasty side effects, including hallucinations, delusions, or socially unacceptable behavior that makes usual activities impossible. Those with severe PTSD symptoms may be a real threat to themselves or others, especially those with a gun license.
VA disability ratings for PTSD include 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100%. As the seriousness of the condition rises, so does the percentage of benefits.
A veteran’s gun rights wouldn’t be affected unless they have a 100% disability rating. As mentioned, this rating is the hardest to receive and requires total impairment with a complete inability to live a normal life.
Receiving A 100% VA Rating For PTSD
A 100% VA rating is more common when an ex-service member suffers from various service-connected disabilities. When someone is 100% disabled because of PTSD alone, they are usually provided with a fiduciary to manage their benefits.
When this occurs, the VA must report the veteran to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System managed by the FBI. The individual will no longer be able to buy guns.
If desired, ex-service members can appeal to the fiduciary by giving evidence that they can manage their benefits without help. A successful appeal enables the veteran to maintain benefits and — among other things — be able to purchase a firearm.
On the other hand, ex-service members with a 70% rating or lower typically lead a regular life. There are many veterans who have a service-connected rating of 70% for PTSD who work a job full time, have a family, and still possess guns. We know this because they are our awesome clients!
That’s not to say a 70% rating isn’t challenging for an ex-service member. They may have to work extra hard to maintain close relationships.
In this video, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about the VA Rating Formula for Mental Disorders and Disabilities like PTSD.
If I Have Been Treated for a Psychiatric, Emotional, or Mental Illness, What Information Must I Give To Receive a Handgun License?
If you have been treated for psychiatric, emotional, or mental illness, you’ll need to submit documentation or a recommendation from a treating mental health professional or treatment center to receive a veteran gun license. It’s usual for the applicant to sign a release for mental health records and have the treatment center forward them to the state police for review.
Alternatively, you may arrange a letter from the treatment facility or mental health professional. The letter should include a quick description of the mental health condition and its presenting problems, the dates of treatment, and the past and current medicines and treatment.
The letter should also include a statement stating that the signing person has assessed the complete mental health history. The letter should also state that the patient hasn’t indicated any signs of violent or emotionally unstable conduct and that they’re suggesting the license’s issuance.
Why Do Veterans Think the VA Is Taking Their Guns?
If most ex-service members with PTSD can still possess guns, the question is, why do so many believe they can’t? The topic is a very controversial one, and misinformation comes from plenty of sources.
Many political movements may benefit from veterans believing they can’t possess guns if they’re diagnosed with PTSD. The negative stigma and label attached to mental health is sometimes used to place fear into people.
But political agendas aren’t the only reason why ex-service members may be misinformed about the topic. There isn’t enough information on the subject. Not just that, but a lot of the information on the internet is wrong. Before you go off on Facebook or Reddit, talk to some experts or even share this article.
As mentioned, the VA has a VA Fiduciary Program. When the VA decides (sometimes wrongly) that a veteran cannot manage their own finances, they often put the ex-service member in the Fiduciary Program.
The individual will receive a letter stating that the VA’s determination of incompetency prohibits them from buying, possessing, receiving, or transporting a gun. It also states that if the veteran knowingly violates any of the prohibitions, they may be imprisoned, fined, or both pursuant to the Brady Handgun Prevention Act.
This is why it’s common for many veterans to believe that the VA is after their guns.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
What is the Law When it Comes to Guns, Veterans, and Financial Incompetence?
The VA puts forward fiduciaries when an ex-service member is believed to be incompetent to manage their assets. But, the VA’s incompetency determination is limited solely to the ability to manage one’s funds and refers to no other form of competency.
It isn’t wholly uncommon to find veterans who cannot manage their finances but are highly competent in all other areas of life.
But the Brady Bill prevents an individual from owning or purchasing a gun after adjudication of a mental health defect.
A mental defect, as mentioned in the Brady Bill, is completely different from financial incompetence. The VA’s adjudication of financial incompetence isn’t an adjudication of a mental defect as referred to by the Brady Bill.
These contradictions can be confusing and challenging when it comes to guns, veterans, and financial incompetence. As always, if you find yourself confused with these rules and laws, it’s best to speak to a professional veterans’ law attorney for expert advice.
A behind-the-scenes look at who works for you at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm.
The Bottom Line When It Comes To the VA and a Veteran’s Guns
If the VA is treating you for a mental health disorder, they aren’t going to take your guns away. If you’re receiving benefits from the VA for a mental health disorder, they still aren’t going to take your guns away.
If the VA suggests that they find you financially incompetent, they still cannot remove your firearms or remove your veteran gun ownership.
If the VA proposes to determine if you are financially incompetent and you receive the Brady letter as mentioned above, seek help from a lawyer as soon as possible. Federal court conjunctions will usually stop the VA from reporting you to the FBI or NICS database even if it considers you incompetent to manage your finances.
Are You a Veteran With PTSD Who’s Concerned About Obtaining a Gun?
Remember, gun laws are different in each state, often at the county or even city level. You must check local statutes or speak with a PTSD attorney if you’re a veteran with PTSD to discuss specific gun laws in your local area.
A veterans’ attorney can ensure that you receive the correct information when it comes to PTSD and your rights. During your discussion, be sure to bring all your medical records, your disability rating, and any relevant paperwork that may help your attorney with your case.
You don’t have to use a Veteran’s compensation lawyer that is nearby. We can work with you over the phone to apply or appeal electronically.
After proper research has been done, you may find that you’re suitable to own a weapon. Or, your local laws may put forward restrictions on ownership or even completely prevent it. Either way, it’s essential that you find out so you can be compliant with the law and avoid risking a criminal charge for illegally owning a firearm.
To speak with an experienced member of our team and to receive a free legal consultation, get in contact with us here.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to serve disabled veterans better in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
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Frequently Asked Questions
No. The only time that might come into question is if you are classified as mentally defective in the process. If you are reading this and you’re with it enough to understand this blog post, you’re probably in good shape. Veterans that are assigned a fiduciary or ruled incompetent may even be able to keep their permits. What matters is if you are on the list when you go to get a CCW or buy a gun, and you’ll be notified long before that happens.
Suicide is a pressing concern for the VA, veterans, and their families. The nation as a whole is trying to figure out bigger problems related to gun control than just veterans. Firearm deaths are increasing among veterans, but taking away guns is not looking like the best solution in the near future. Helping veterans with their mental health struggles is much more effective. Helping veterans get disability coverage when they can’t work is one way that we help.
No, that does not disqualify you. Give us a call and we can walk you through the process so you don’t have to worry about getting denied because you got the wrong form or the wrong document. If we can prove to the VA that your husband’s death was caused by his time in the service, you’ll get benefits for the rest of your life (or until you remarry). If we don’t prove it to the VA and we lose your case, you don’t pay us a dime.