Documents obtained by The Daily Caller and interviews with American veterans reveal a shocking government program: The Department of Veterans Affairs is disarming America’s veterans by getting them placed on the FBI’s criminal background-check list.
The VA sends veterans’ personal medical and financial information directly to the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which can seize their guns in home raids.
Veterans deemed mentally incompetent or financially incapable are finally speaking out about the errors in the system and the fearful harassment they and their families face from the federal government. And it all starts when vets go to the VA to get medical help.
Here’s what we know:
VA medical information is used to block veterans from possessing firearms:
The Daily Caller obtained a “MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS AND THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION REGARDING THE NATIONAL INSTANT CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM.”
The document, dated Feb. 27, 2012, makes clear the VA must send health information to the FBI for its gun background-check database.
“VA will provide an encrypted compact disc exchanged via mail to the FBI no less than quarterly for, inter alia, inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS),” the memo reads.
The memo defines the NICS database as a list of “persons prohibited under federal law from receiving or possessing firearms.”
“Data disclosed by VA to the FBI under the terms of this agreement is to be entered into the NICS Index…”
The VA puts you on the list if they say you can’t handle your “financial affairs”:
“…VA provides the Department of Justice a monthly list of individuals who have been rated by VA as being unable to manage their VA benefits,” according to a federal government “frequently asked questions” document obtained by TheDC.
The VA information technology center in Austin, Texas sends the FBI “a monthly CD” containing names of new veterans being added to the list.
The number of veterans who are tracked “fluctuates,” according to the memorandum, but “There were 129,440 beneficiaries in the program as of July 12, 2012.”
Changing your method of banking can get you put on the list:
“A [VA] counselor named Dr. Blair says, ‘How are you handling your finances?’,” veteran Henry Wrobel of Canton, Texas told TheDC. “I said my wife suggested, to make it a little bit easier for me, maybe use the auto-debit instead of going to the post office because it’s hard for me to drive” with injuries including two “made-up thumbs” resulting from 12 hand surgeries, a wired-on shoulder, and other ailments.
“I told him it’s working very well,” Wrobel said. The counselor “wrote down that I was unable to handle my own finances and that ‘his wife handles his finances.’ I got a letter saying that because I can’t handle my finances I’m like a felon and I can’t be around guns.”
“I had a pistol permit in Connecticut at 21, and the only things against me are one speeding ticket and two parking tickets. My constitutional rights, my dignity, means nothing to” the counselor, Wrobel said. “I have no crimes whatsoever against me, and now I’m stripped of my constitutional rights as though I’m a felon.”
Wrobel, who is starting a miniature trucking company, said, “My wife has been appointed my fiduciary as though I’m a retarded child… I’m not a dummy, I’m disabled. There’s a difference.”
Wrobel blamed America’s “anti-gun president” for trying to “break the spirit of America” by taking away veterans’ guns.
ATF agents will come to your house to disarm you:
“I was getting real sick from the medications they had me on,” Colorado war veteran Douglas Szklarski told TheDC. “I pretty much lived in bed. Somebody brought me a joint. I started using cannabis. It started turning me around immediately. So I said I wouldn’t [take the VA pills] anymore. They said you have to take them. They deemed me incompetent.”
“I’ve had like nine doctors say I wasn’t incompetent and they still went after my guns.”
“ATF came to my house. I had to surrender them,” Szklarski said, noting that he appealed the VA’s decision. “I just got my guns back.”
“Certain veterans they put you on a list, and if you’re on the list you don’t get help from them. The more you complain the more they attack you.”
Szklarski said that the VA erroneously labeled him an alcoholic and threatened him with arrest when he said he planned to protest their decision publicly.
“They tried to do everything they could to break me and they’re pissed that they didn’t.”
“It’s not even humane. You want to talk about discrimination, become a vet.”
War widows are threatened by the federal government:
“The VA, without going through any of the courts, made the determination that my mother was incapable of handling her finances, which isn’t true, and so she can’t handle firearms,” Lawrence, a retired serviceman and son of a Vietnam War widow, told TheDC.
“In her case she had a mild stroke and we were requesting additional assistance from the VA to get someone to do cooking and house chores,” Lawrence said. “They made a determination that she’s incompetent and incapable of handling her finances, which is totally untrue because she set up many of her accounts to have money automatically deducted from her account so she wouldn’t miss them. I do the same thing.”
“A doctor said she’s not incompetent, but they’ve still required my mother to have a fiduciary. It’s a totally bogus claim by the VA. My understanding is that a determination has to be made in a court of law based on a doctor’s analysis.”
“They were sending notices to my mother to the wrong address. This whole thing is just a total mess.”
Lawrence said that his mother, who lives in a secluded area with long police wait times, did not own any firearms when she was deemed incompetent, but that he’s concerned about how the information is being used against her.
“What concerns me is they basically have taken away one of her constitutional rights without due process,” he said. “They said that they would maintain all this information in just the VA database, so if she were to go out and get a firearm they said sure. But we found out that they send all that information to the FBI and ATF etc. They basically lied to us there. And it’s like a no-fly list. Once you get on it, you can’t get off.”
“They actually threatened to withhold her benefits if she didn’t sign up for a fiduciary. She lost her husband in Vietnam! She’s entitled to those benefits. How they can turn around and say she isn’t entitled to them? It sounded like a threat. When the federal government makes a threat, it puts the fear of God into you.”
Veterans across the country are at risk:
“The [FBI] memo is particularly troubling to us because it makes it clear that the FBI is rubber-stamping the lists of veterans being sent to it by the VA and placing these veterans on the NICS list under the category of people being declared to have been ‘adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution.'” Michael Connelly, executive director of the United States Justice Foundation, told TheDC. “In fact, there is no adjudication process for the veterans and it is clear that the FBI and the VA are equating not paying ones bills on time with mental illness.”
“Some of the veterans we represent have been put on the list simply because they let their spouses pay the family bills or even have the bills paid automatically every month by the bank,” said Connelly, who flagged the documents provided to TheDC for this report. “There is a total lack of due process here, and it is never mentioned in the memo. The burden of proof is on the veterans and even if they succeed in getting the incompetency ruling reversed the VA is apparently not informing the DOJ of that so the veterans stay on the NICS list. Some veterans say that they send the info to the FBI that still refuses to move them from the list.”
The VA refuses to admit fault.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs’ policy to inform veterans of their rights regarding the Brady Act has not changed,” VA told TheDC in a statement. “As has been policy for multiple administrations, VA acts in accordance with federal law and works with the Department of Justice to properly maintain the NICS database. VA notifies any veteran who may be deemed by VA to be mentally incapable of managing his or her own funds of the opportunity to contest this determination and also to seek relief from the reporting requirements under the Brady Act, as required by law.”