REAL: Vets Avoid Reporting PTSD for Fear of Losing Guns

‘I was reaching out to a ‘trusted’ source’ and got penalized for it…’

gun veteran photo

Photo by Tony Webster (CC)

(John Wynne, Liberty Headlines) Some veterans are reluctant to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) out of concerns it could limit their access to firearms, according to an article from the Huffington Post.

Statistics show that 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and that up to 30 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD, a mental health disorder that sometimes occurs after experiencing a life-threatening event.

According to the article, PTSD increases a veteran’s risk of substance abuse, severe depression, anxiety, and suicide.

Veterans who died from suicide in the years 2001 to 2009 were found to be 13 times as likely to have been diagnosed with the disorder.

Despite these numbers, only half of the veterans in need of treatment seek it through the VA.

That’s because veterans must undergo PTSD screening, and those diagnosed are eligible to receive disability benefits.

The catch? In some cases, being diagnosed with PTSD could threaten the ability to purchase or own a gun.

Heather Vanhoose, a veteran attorney for the Jan Dils Law Firm, says the concern is widespread.

“I get asked that question more than once every single week: ‘If I file a claim for PTSD, are they going to take my guns?”

While many, including Vanhoose, have attempted to allay veterans’ fears, there’s cause for concern.

A determination of mental incompetence by the VA, tied to the management of monetary benefits through the VA’s fiduciary program, bars the beneficiary from possessing or buying a gun because of a provision in the “Brady Bill.”

Despite this possibility, the VA maintains that the fears are misplaced.

A spokesperson for the agency said that concerns about losing firearms due to a PTSD diagnosis are “unfounded.”

But the article provides evidence to the contrary, describing the experience of Sergeant Eddie Montoya, who was present during a bombing near Mosul in 2004 that killed 22 people.

Montoya later received a PTSD diagnosis, before ending up in a psychiatric hold during a stay at a VA clinic where he sought help for alcohol abuse.

After Montoya sought to increase his benefits, a subsequent evaluation led the agency to consider designating him incompetent and having a guardian manage his benefits.

Later, he was denied a concealed carry permit by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

“I was reaching out to a ‘trusted’ source’ and got penalized for it,” said Montoya. “This is why vets won’t reach out.”

The National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups have fought to make sure cases like Montoya’s won’t happen again, through legislation like the Veterans 2ndAmendment Protection Act, which passed in the House of Representatives last year.

“No veteran should have their fundamental right to self-defense arbitrarily revoked by a government bureaucrat,” NRA Executive Director Chris Cox stated. “Receiving assistance to handle personal finances does not mean an individual is unable to safely own a firearm.”


Gun Owners of America, another 2ndAmendment advocacy group, calledthe stripping of veterans’ constitutional rights “one of the most contemptible chapters in American history” in an e-mail last year to supporters and claimed that over 257,000 veterans had been denied due process.

And the National Association for Gun Rights, which takes an even harder line than the NRA, warnedof the dangers of “mental health databases” which they claim have already resulted in over 100,000 veterans being stripped of their rights “just from acknowledging stress on returning from war.”

PTSD can be a debilitating disorder – but when faced with the prospect of losing their guns, many veterans who would otherwise seek treatment aren’t reaching out.

Read the entire Huffington Post article here.