My fight with Senator King's office to make them understand that the VA is attempting to strip our veterans of their constitutional rights seems to be taking longer than it should. For some reason, people don't seem to get it that the government has absolutely NO right to take ANYONE'S constitutional rights without due process! (I even submit that they don't EVER have that right at all, but that's another story!).
Here is the discussion to date....let's see if my last email (and phone call I'll have later today) will help educate his office personnel any!
Letter to Senator King:
I am writing to you today to tell you that some of your constituents are under attack by our own government. A letter, from the V.A., has been sent to some of our veterans and heroes informing them that because of a physical or mental condition, the government is proposing to rule that they are incompetent to handle their own financial affairs, that the government is going to appoint a stranger to handle their affairs for them at their expense and that a determination of incompetency will prohibit them from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition. If they knowingly violate any of these prohibitions, they 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).
As a representative of the state of Maine’s veterans, this is of an utmost importance that you look into this most egregious violation of their constitutional 2nd Amendment right to own and bear arms and 5th Amendment right that states that no person shall “…be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law"!
In every state in the United States no one can be declared incompetent to administer their own affairs without due process of law and that usually requires a judicial hearing with evidence being offered to prove to a judge that the person is indeed incompetent. So it is beyond the scope of the V.A. to unilaterally decide this without bringing this to a court of law within the veterans’ jurisdiction. It is your civic duty, as these veterans elected governmental leaders, to protect them from such violations and demand that the government cease and desist these egregious actions immediately!
Then the email commences:
Sent: Monday, March 18, 2013 3:46 PM
Subject: Responding to your message (Intranet Quorum IMA00100185)
Subject: Responding to your message (Intranet Quorum IMA00100185)
Do you still have a copy of the letter? We would like to see it if possible.
Can you recall where it was sent from? When? Or anything about who signed it?
Constituent Representative | Senator Angus S. King, Jr., Maine
3 Canal Plaza, Suite 601; Portland, ME 04101
Dear Mr. Dennison,
I do have a copy of one such letter sent out to a veteran from the VA.
But by your reply below, I'm assuming either you misunderstood, or misread my letter to Senator King. I have not received such a letter....yet anyways. And I'm not aware if any veteran in Maine has either. But many veterans across this country have, and it is possible that someone in Maine has. Either way, this is something very important for Senator King, and our other governmental representatives to investigate, and address because if any veteran in Maine has received one, they definitely need our state representatives' intervention. And if none have received any, they possibly could in the future, and I could be one of them because there are no clear criteria for the VA to declare a veteran incompetent. It can be the loss of a limb in combat, a head injury, a diagnosis of PTSD, or even a soldier just telling someone at the VA that he or she is depressed over the loss of a buddy in combat. And even though I never saw combat, I do have the loss of use of a limb and been diagnosed with PTSD.
This cannot stand as only a court of law can decide competency (under the 5th Amendment) and the VA has no right to declare this of a veteran, just because they receive medical care from them. The veteran is no longer in the military and is a civilian who has complete standing under the US Constitution.
The VA cannot take away a veteran's 2nd amendment right through this blatant violation of his/her 5th Amendment right either.
You may say, well, the VA is giving the veteran a chance to rebut this. First, if this veteran is supposed to be incompetent, then how does the VA expect them to understand and respond? Secondly, why should the veteran be forced to have to respond and fight this with the VA, when this should be a matter before a court? Thirdly, with everything that can go wrong with a REGULAR claim to fight for a claim for benefits (and usually does) and the backlog the VA has with these, do you realize the nightmare that this will cause for both the veteran and the VA? And fourthly, the veteran has been found guilty and has to prove s/he isn't. In this country, it's supposed to be we are innocent, and the VA has to prove otherwise...in a court of law (back to the 5th Amendment right again)!
This is just so wrong and our US Reps really need to tell the VA that they have gone beyond their scope of abilities and need to stop this immediately! I appreciate Senator King's attention in this matter. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.
Sent: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 2:13 PM
Subject: Responding to your message
Subject: Responding to your message
Here is an explanation of this issue.
Our VA liaison in Washington gave us a clear summary of this issue. If the VA deems a veteran who receives benefits mentally incompetent to receive and manage those benefits without the aid of a fiduciary, the VA must report that determination of mental incompetence to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ will place the mentally incompetent veteran's name on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which will prevent a veteran from purchasing a gun under the Brady Act.
The VA affords those who may be affected with advance notice, the opportunity to be heard, and the opportunity to submit evidence showing their ability to manage funds. Also, the veteran's name will come off of the NICS list if he or she regains the ability to manage his affairs or if the DOJ determines that the veteran is unlikely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.
Please let me know if you would like any further information or if you have any questions.
You are missing the very reasoning for the concern.
1st, only a court of law can deem someone incompetent to not be able to run their own affairs. The 5th Amendment of the US Constitution says so. And most (if not all) state constitutions say the same. You cannot be deprived of life, liberty or pursuit of happiness without due process of law. If the VA has come to the conclusion that a veteran is so incompetent to handle their affairs, then they too must go to a court and prove it! They do not have the right to unilaterally decide to take away a veteran's constitutional rights. Once out of the military, and in the civilian world as a veteran, one reclaims protection of one's constitutional rights under civilian law....and is no longer under military law. And receiving medical (or any other assistance/benefits) care from the government does not waive that right.
2nd, these letters of which I provided you a copy of, say "This evidence indicates that you are not able to handle your VA benefit payments because of a physical or mental condition". Please explain how a PHYSICAL condition makes one incompetent? An incompetent person, means one who is mentally deficient. A physical disability is not a mental disability. By this vague statement, the VA could determine that the loss of a limb, or loss of use of a limb, could make a veteran incompetent. Do I sound incompetent to you? But yet, the loss of use of my right hand, a partial loss of use of the other, could very well make me incompetent by VA's standards and also, unable to exercise my 2nd Amendment right as well! And I can assure you, I am quite capable of managing my own affairs, as well as bearing arms. And so are many other veterans with physical disabilities.
3rd, why should a veteran have to provide proof/evidence showing they can manage their own affairs TO the VA? It is the onus of the VA to prove that the veteran is unable to. We still are in the land of the free, and are innocent until proven guilty! And that proof, once again, has to come from a court of law, not by a VA doctor or a VA board. One reason for this is because MANY people, not just veterans, have PTSD or other emotional problems. That alone, does NOT make one incompetent. It usually goes hand in hand with other factors that together, makes someone incompetent. That is why a court of law must decide, and not the VA. Because to take away a person's fundamental right to be free to pursue his/her own's life as they so choose, has a much higher degree of standard of determination in a court of law than what the VA requires. And rightfully so.
4th, by the VA's view, they are writing to someone whom they say is incompetent. What makes them think that this veteran would then suddenly have enough competence to understand this letter and correctly respond to exercise their right to challenge the VA findings if their assessment is correct?
5th, who is the DOJ where they can solely determine/judge whether or not someone is likely to act dangerously or not to the public? Once again we go back to the 5th Amendment. This MUST be determined in a court of law. No matter what law/statute/rule might give an agency the right to do anything, it cannot be in contradiction to the constitution. And the constitution is VERY clear on this matter:
No person shall.... (not) be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
So once again, it's not up to the VA or the DOJ... it is up to a court of law!
This is just SO wrong on many levels and must be addressed by our US reps!
Our veterans have paid enough....they need to be properly defended against the VA's attempt to go beyond the scope of their abilities and violate our heroes constitutional rights that they fought/served in the military to protect and keep for us all!