During the joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings with the nation’s leading Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Mike Bost (R-Ill.) asked VSO’s Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), about what Congress should do to ensure that veterans’ Second Amendment rights remain protected.
Since the 1990s, veterans who use a fiduciary to manage their VA benefits are immediately placed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) list without any due process to determine if they are a danger to themselves or their community. Under VA’s interpretation of current law, if the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appoints a fiduciary to help a veteran (or other beneficiary) manage their compensation benefits, VA then sends their name to the FBI’s NICS list, resulting in that individual being unable to legally own or operate a firearm. 16,000 veterans and others were referred to the NICS list by VA in fiscal year 2021 alone.
“Law-abiding veterans’ Second Amendment rights have been under attack for too long. I am glad that three of the biggest and most influential veterans service organizations agree – this is wrong,” said Ranking Member Bost. “The men and women who have served deserve better. It’s time for Congress to do right by them and end this discriminatory practice by passing my bill, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act.”
“In DAV, we have a very firm stance, part of our constitution speaks to the constitution of the United States. We believe that all veterans are citizens of this country. They should have all of their rights, and they should certainly have due process, regardless what that means in regards to a fiduciary or not. The simple fact that they have a fiduciary for financial purposes doesn’t mean that they are incompetent for purposes of handling a firearm,” said Army Veteran Edward Reese, DAV’s Executive Director. “So due process is the key ingredient to making sure that the jurisdiction is clear, that the Department of Veterans Affairs is not a court, and that a court is the competent authority to make those decisions.”
“No bureaucrat should be able to determine to ruin – or take away – your second amendment right to bear arms,” said Navy Veteran Paul E. Dillard, The American Legion’s National Commander.
“I am not for automatically taking a person’s firearms away because they are being truthful and they are seeking help,” said Air Force Veteran Matthew M. “Fritz” Mihelcic, VFW’s National Commander. “We fully support you in your goal and your effort, but we have to ensure that we still ask the question. A person can certainly decline to answer and that is within their right. But I believe, as you are saying, we need to have something going forward that VA personnel can talk to people. If we talk to them, we can help them.”
In February 2021, Ranking Member Bost introduced the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act. This bill would ensure that no veteran loses their Second Amendment right to bear arms because VA appoints someone to help manage their VA compensation benefits, unless a judicial authority finds that they are a danger to themselves or others. To date, there has been no action on the bill by House Democrat leaders, despite repeated requests from Ranking Member Bost and House Republicans. Read more about the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act here.
Collectively, DAV, VFW, and The American Legion represent almost 5 million veterans across the country. Each of the VSO’s testimony can be watched here.