For Veterans, obtaining an accurate VA disability rating can be life-changing. In addition to maximizing your monthly benefit, it opens the door to much-needed medical services, including physical therapy and mental health services.
However, you might be one of the many Vets concerned that too high of a disability rating or being eligible for disability compensation will have unintended and unwelcome consequences. If you’ve been hesitant to pursue all VA disability benefits because you don’t want to put your freedom of gun ownership at risk, let’s explore the facts.
Disability ratings don’t determine competence
It is incredibly rare for the VA disability-rating process to affect your ability to own a gun in any way. Before we explain why, it’s essential to understand the fundamentals of how the VA’s disability-rating system works.
Service-connected disabilities are assigned a percentage from 0% to 100% to indicate their severity and negative impact on your overall health and ability to function. In cases with multiple service-connected conditions, each with its own disability rating, an overall rating is determined using the VA’s Combined Ratings Table.
While a disability rating is reflective of the detrimental effects of a service-connected disability, it is not a measure of your mental competence or ability to take care of yourself. In most cases, even veterans with a VA disability rating of 70% or higher can manage their affairs without assistance.
Veterans with PTSD typically retain 2nd Amendment rights
Much of the apprehension about a VA disability rating’s influence on gun rights originates from Veterans who are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The anxiety disorder is common among service members following active duty deployments, and while the majority of people with PTSD are not violent, the diagnosis is associated with an increased risk of violence.
Although most people know that a felony conviction will prevent someone from owning a gun, the other laws by state can be confusing. Given that gun laws vary dramatically by state, and many have statutes that allow the removal of guns from owners who might harm themselves or others, the concern is understandable. You are not alone in wondering whether documenting a PTSD diagnosis with the VA and the condition’s correlation with violence will result in the confiscation of your firearms.
Fortunately, the answer is no.
Simply submitting a diagnosis of PTSD to the VA and receiving a disability rating for it will not affect your ability to own a gun under federal law. In those states where there is a mechanism to remove guns from a person, it takes more than a diagnosis of mental illness. It requires a finding by law enforcement, and ultimately a judge, that the gun owner is a danger to themself or others.
A fiduciary may be a red flag
Still, there is one VA determination that can affect a Veteran’s ability to purchase a gun under. It occurs when a Veteran no longer has the mental capacity to manage their affairs and is appointed a fiduciary by the VA to do so. In basic terms, a fiduciary is someone who has a special responsibility to take good care of another person’s interests.
If a Veteran’s mental capacity has deteriorated to the point where they cannot effectively handle their personal and financial matters, the VA appoints a fiduciary to take over these responsibilities and act in the best interest of the Veteran. The decision is not based on an assigned disability rating or any specific service-connected condition but on medical documentation or a previous legal finding. It is reserved for cases of extreme disability and intended to protect a Veteran’s finances and future. In these circumstances, the VA will work with the Veteran and their family to assign a fiduciary to oversee the management of monthly VA benefits.
The connection to gun purchases exists due to a 1998 change in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms policy. Its requirement to report certain extreme disabilities extends to the VA, which must submit its findings of mental incompetence to the FBI. The FBI adds the information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which can prevent those Veterans from purchasing a new firearm.
Despite this possibility, it should not be a significant concern for most Veterans pursuing disability benefits. The likelihood that the VA believes a fiduciary is necessary for a Vet, even one with a substantial disability rating, is extremely low. In addition, Veterans with a fiduciary have options to appeal a gun purchase denial if they believe it was unwarranted.
Take a worry-free route to your VA disability claim
Now that you know you won’t have to sacrifice your 2nd Amendment rights to pursue the VA disability benefits you’re entitled to, consider giving REE Medical a call. We have a passionate team with extensive knowledge of VA policies and federal agencies.
Also, we never charge a commission or take a portion of your disability payments. Any Veteran we work with will only pay a transparent, flat fee for our services. We can’t guarantee the results, but 95% of REE Medical clients reported receiving an overall disability rating of 70% or higher.* Contact us today for a free benefits consultation with our experts.