Answer: the Constitution.
Your weekend assignment is in. Research the two topics I summarize below.
Many readers are busy as hell during the week. They catch up on reading and issues over the weekend. This column is for those folks, and anyone else who wants to help.
Here’s the deal. I summarize what is going on. You go out into the bloggospher to research. Then, email me with information to flush out the story: benkrause (at) disabledveterans.org.
We covered two broad areas that came up during this past week that are serious.
There are rumors of veterans losing their Second Amendment rights and Vietnam War veterans being creamed by the VA. Let’s figure out what is really going on.
Disarming Veterans – Is VA Disarming America’s Heroes?
Yesterday, a veteran asked me about a blog post on Redflagnews.com. The title of the post was “Disturbing Report: Veterans are receiving letters from VA prohibiting the ownership of guns.” That site is considered a “conspiracy site, so read with an objective eye. Like many websites, you may come across propaganda parading as fact. Use your logic to separate truth from fiction.
Overview: this rumor, to some degree, is likely true according to the report. It provides a copy of a letter received by a veteran from the VA Portland Regional Office. On page two of the letter to the veteran (see the bottom of the post), the VA notifies the veteran that a determination of incompetence will prohibit that person from owning a gun. Thus, certain veterans deemed financially incompetent are unable to own a firearm in some situations.
Here is an accompanying video on the Constitution from Michael Connelly:
The problems: different sources reported different things about veterans’ rights relating to gun ownership over the week. Some are questioning the authorship of the blog post I mention above, written by Attorney Michael Connelly. Some believe the NRA is tying gun control rights to veterans issues in an unfair manner. Some believe it is a moot point because the VA provides an appeals process for veterans wrongly prohibited from gun ownership.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has possibly changed its documentation policy on veterans using the Fiduciary Program. I did not see a formal rulemaking procedure in relation to this change of policy – this is usually a requirement prior to changing policy in such a way that would infringe on any Constitutional right.
Last, the VA has not provided FBI data or any other research that supports reporting veterans with financial problems to the Criminal Database. In order to infringe on a Constitutional right, the government must be well justified in their actions. Here, there is no reliable data showing that veterans who are bad with money, and thus financially incompetent, are dangerous with firearms.
We need to get to the bottom of these problems by learning the facts. The facts will tell use whether or not the rumor and the other allegations are credible.
The facts: if the VA determines that a veteran is financially incompetent, the VA will report the name of the veteran to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This will prohibit the veteran from buying a firearm.
The VA Fiduciary Program has had many problems. On its face, the program is likely unconstitutional to begin with for a variety of reasons. Mainly, the procedures in place deprive the veteran of their property. It is likely that the procedures are not rigorous enough to avoid gross violations of Procedural Due Process.
Your assignment: read the next bit on the Vietnam War veteran. Do some digging. Then send me an email with what you found and your opinion. We will post these on Monday.
Here are the sources to start your research on the gun issue:
- Psychology Today: DSM-5 and Who Defines Mental Illness
- HuffPo: Veterans’ Gun Rights Becomes Tough Issue In Defense Bill
- RedFlagNews.com: http://bit.ly/VDTTjK
- United States Justice Foundation: http://bit.ly/Was84w
- The Gun Ownership Facebook Post: Has a long chain of conversation on issue.
VA Engaged in Psy Ops Against Vietnam War Veteran?
PSYOPS: “Planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of psychological operations is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator’s objectives. Also called PSYOP. See also consolidation psychological operations; overt peacetime psychological operations programs; perception management.” -Military.com
The subject is VA’s payment for third party care for children with spina bifida. VA is supposed to provide care if the child’s birth defect is related to the parent’s service in Vietnam or Korea. The cause of the spina bifida defect is believed to be Agent Orange.
VA is seemingly ignoring its obligations under the law and failing to properly adjudicate claims for health care. The Nesler family is caught in the middle of the mess. More on them in a second.
Here, the issue is quite significant. While only 1,200 kids are directly affected, Vietnam Veterans of America say 5 of 7 Vietnam veterans have children with birth defects, including spina bifida. They are coming to Capitol Hill in April to push for legislation on the matter.
Further, it is of great significance because VA benefits are now by and large considered protected property under the Constitution. A deprivation of that property without adequate Procedural Due Process is a violation of the Constitution.
The law was initially passed in 1997. The offset was a $5 billion offset from 1997 – 2003. The US Senate decided severely restrict a veteran’s ability to file a medical malpractice claim against the VA. In exchange, children with spina bifida would get health care coverage. CBO said the spina bifida program was so insignificant in comparison that it did not warrant a report (it runs around $20 million per year, now).
VA did not implement the law properly, which created a need for a subsequent hearing in 2008. There, VA agreed to pay for comprehensive health care, again. VA Attorney Walter Hall told Congress that the new legislation would provide the same health care benefits to these children as is received by veterans.
VA Purchased Care will still not do it. They claim they do not need to provide Home Care in the manner written within the law. Instead, by shifting definitions, they claim “custodial care” is not allowed. However, custodial care is, by definition, the same or similar to “home care.”
According to Ron Nesler, Vietnam War veteran and father of a spina bifida child, VA has avoided providing care in the way Mr. Hall stated to Congress. Instead, they claim that comprehensive health care is only care that is considered a medical service. Of course, this is not the same thing in bureaucratic speak, as you know.
The VA Psy Ops Part
For years, Ron Nesler has asked VA for care for his adopted daughter, Honey Sue. Honey Sue’s birth father did three tours in Vietnam in the Marine Corps in the mid 60’s. Ron likewise did a tour from 1970-71 in the Army.
Rather than answering Ron’s questions, and providing reasonable justification for their denials of care, the VA has merely stuck to its guns with the “because we said so” excuse. This technique, and its maddening results are most accurately reflected in a recent response to Ron’s questions. VA rewrote Ron’s questions to avoid answering and provided the position of the VA in a way that is purely having the effect of a psy op against the Nesler family.
To this country’s shame, the VA is, rather than helping the family find care, throwing up a stonewall tactic. Here is the email with questions – notice how they start by redefining the question in 1 in a way that seems harmless. But for question 2 and 3, they completely deflect:
Question 1: Does Honey Sue get all the kinds of health care that is eligible to a 100% disabled veteran?
Response: We believe that the question was intended to ask whether children with spina bifida have the same eligibility for health care that veterans have.
The answer is no. The health care which children with Spina Bifida (SB) are eligible to receive is set forth in Title 38 United States Code (U.S.C.) 1803 and 38 CFR 17.900-17.905. Health care which Veterans are eligible to receive is set forth in chapter 17 of title 38, United States Code. A review of these provisions shows that children with SB do not have the same eligibility for health care that Veterans have.
Question 2: How do you know that Aid and Attendance / Custodial Care are “non-medical services”?
Response: We believe this question is asking whether children with spina bifida are eligible to receive Aid and Attendance and Custodial Care.
Aid and Attendance refers to an increased monthly rate of pension or compensation which can be provided to certain Veterans who require the aid and attendance of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting yourself from the hazards of your daily environment. Children with SB are not eligible for this monetary benefit.
Custodial Care is generally considered to be non-medical assistance either at home or in a facility setting to provide for activities of daily living such as bathing, eating, dressing, and toileting. Children with SB are not eligible for this type of care.
Question 3: How do you know that “non-medical services” are not reimbursable?
Response: We believe this question is asking whether “non-medical services” are reimbursable.
Section 1803 of title 38 of the U.S. code and 38 CFR 17.900-17.905 only authorize VA to reimburse for ”health care” as defined. This definition includes some items that are not “services” such as pharmaceuticals. Also, it includes some transportation costs, which may not be considered “medical services.” Consequently, the answer to this question will depend on the services for which reimbursement is being requested.
Your assignment: research either or both of these topics. Send me an email benkrause (at) disabledveterans.org with what you find out. Include your opinion.