Everyone in America, especially those veterans who served their country, want and deserve to feel safe and secure in their homes. For many people, gun ownership is an important aspect of ensuring that safety and protection.
However, gun ownership is an ongoing controversial topic and an especially worrisome issue for veterans who’ve returned from active duty and were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For some veterans who suffer from traumatic mental health injuries, owning a gun might be a risk to public safety.
So, it’s important to understand why and when the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) might intervene or when a doctor might breach doctor-patient confidentiality regarding a veteran’s gun ownership.
When Doctors Can Report to Authorities
It’s important to understand that violence isn't always a consequence of individuals diagnosed with PTSD. It’s possible that the risk of violence increases if a veteran suffers from this mental condition, but many people recover from this illness and are able to enjoy healthy lives.
It’s likely that your doctor is a person with whom you’ve shared a long-term relationship and feel you can trust talking about your mental health. However, if during an appointment with your doctor you mention harming a child, a senior, or yourself; or make a direct threat against someone else; your doctor might report these actions to authorities.
Justifying a breach in patient-physician confidentiality is a sensitive issue, even if it's in the interest of public safety, and doctors don’t take this lightly. Additionally, while patients may feel comfortable discussing their gun possession with a doctor they’ve known for years, they might not feel that same freedom with a VA physician because patients may not get the same one for each visit.
Many veterans feel that when the VA asks about their guns and mental health, they’re giving their answers straight to the federal government. However, a PTSD diagnosis by either your doctor or a VA doctor doesn't mean your gun will be taken away.
When the VA Can Take Away Your Gun
The VA gets involved in gun ownership if it determines that you’re severely mentally incompetent. In general, this happens when you’re unable to handle your personal and financial affairs.
If you’ve submitted a VA benefits claim for PTSD, and the VA ranks your symptoms at 100%, it’s possible the VA will appoint a fiduciary to handle your affairs. Also, the VA sends a “prohibiting record” to the FBI where your name is added into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. When this happens, you're unable to own, buy, or transport a firearm.
Veterans appointed fiduciaries often suffer from any number of complex medical conditions, including head injuries and memory issues. When these conditions occur, the government appoints someone to help manage their government benefits.
To be diagnosed as mentally incompetent, you must “lack the mental capacity to contract or to manage your own affairs, including disbursements of funds without limitations.” If this happens, the VA can take your gun, and it’s the veteran’s obligation to then prove they have the capacity to get it back.
What’s important to know is incompetency and PTSD aren't the same things. You can be diagnosed with PTSD, receive VA benefits, and still own your firearm.
Call Cuddigan Law
At Cuddigan Law, we understand that PTSD is a debilitating mental condition that can severely and negatively impact a veteran’s life, but we also know the law about gun possession if you're diagnosed with this mental condition. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on your rights.
If you’d like a free evaluation of your disability case, call Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys will answer your questions and ensure that you have accurate information about your gun rights and your mental health diagnosis. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.