A veteran and constitutional attorney who is suing the Veterans Administration for threatening to deprive some returning troops of their 2nd Amendment rights after classifying them as mentally incompetent is warning his fellow veterans of a new VA program designed to extract personal information that could be used against them.
The Million Veterans Program is a voluntary research program funded by the VA that is supposedly designed to study veterans’ genetics and health, writes attorney Michael Connelly, the executive director of the United States Justice Foundation
But Connelly warns that the veterans “are asked to not only provide information on their physical health, but also their mental and emotional health, and that of their family members.”
The request is significant, he contends, because of the VA’s distribution of letters to certain veterans, as WND was first to report, warning they could be declared incompetent, assigned an advocate to handle their affairs and stripped of their 2nd Amendment rights. The letters are the target of Connelly’s lawsuit.
Connelly said much of the information the Million Veterans Program wants is “similar to what the VA is using to have veterans declared incompetent to handle their own financial affairs and then have their names placed on the NCIS list by the FBI so the veterans cannot own or purchase firearms due to a ‘mental defect.'”
“As a veteran and constitutional lawyer I find this very troubling,” he said. “I encourage all of my fellow veterans to carefully read this questionnaire and consider whether you can reap any benefits from participating in this program. Proceed cautiously and consider the possible implications to your constitutional rights.”
It’s the same administration that in 2009 warned that “returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists.”
The 2009 report from the Department of Homeland Security was called “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” It also said Obama’s governmental managers were “concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.”
USJF got involved when it received a copy of a letter from the Portland VA Medical Center to a veteran. The letter warned the vet that “evidence indicates that you are not able to handle your VA benefit payments because of a physical or mental condition.”
“We propose to rate you incompetent for VA purposes. This means we must decide if you are able to handle your VA benefit payments. We will base our decision on all the evidence we already have including any other evidence you sent to us.”
The VA also warned: “A determination of incompetency will prohibit you from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition. If you knowingly violate any of these prohibitions, you may be fined, imprisoned, or both.”
The letter was signed by K. Kalama, Veterans Service Center manager in the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. But it didn’t present the evidence, the source of the evidence or even why the veteran’s competency was questioned.
‘Any emotional problems?’
The stated aim of the Million Veterans Program, or MVP, from the VA’s research and development branch, is to “better understand how genes affect health and illness.”
It may, the VA tells veterans, uncover “family health conditions of which you were not aware.”
The program achieves that aim through collecting genetic samples and health information.
The risks are similar to the risks of taking of blood samples, the VA says, and there is “a slight risk of a breach of confidentiality.”
Heritage, income and family components are part of MVP’s questionnaire.
It also asks: “During the past 4 weeks, were you limited in the kind of work you do or other regular activities as a result of any emotional problems (such as feeling depressed or anxious)?”
“How much of the time during the past 4 weeks have you felt calm and peaceful?” it continues.
“During the past 4 weeks, how much of the time has your physical health or emotional problems interfered with your social activities (like visiting with friends, relatives, etc.)?”
Participant also must rate their “emotional health” and whether they have felt “downhearted and blue.”
The questionnaire has an entire section asking about “mental health disorders.”
It also has detailed inquiries regarding parental and sibling health.
After WND reported on the program to classify veterans as unstable, dozens of people, including the local sheriff, gathered outside a Navy veteran’s home in Idaho over concerns authorities would confiscate his weapons. The public protest caught the attention of Associated Press.
Veteran Affairs spokesman Bret Bowers told AP the agency doesn’t have the authority to confiscate weapons, but as WND has reported, it can notify federal law enforcement agencies when such letters are issued that a particular person needs to be added to the national gun-ban list.
A similar plan was being considered for recipients of Social Security, the Los Angeles Times said recently. The paper said the Obama administration is pushing to ban Social Security beneficiaries from owning guns if they “lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs.”
Others could be targeted
Connelly told WND that if the government restricts Social Security recipients, there will be other targets soon.
“They could go after student loan recipients. What about people getting food stamps? Medicaid? Potentially anybody working for any government contractor,” he warned.
He said he’s been warning on his blog since earlier this year that the Social Security move was coming.
He said the government was using veterans “as guinea pigs to develop methods that can be used to steal their constitutional rights.”
“Veterans get the letter from the VA telling them that because of physical or mental disabilities they are going to be declared incompetent to handle their own financial affairs, and the VA will appoint a fiduciary for them. The veterans are given 60 days to prove they are competent, which is a direct violation of the due process clause of the Constitution that requires the burden of proof be on the government,” he wrote.
“In none of the cases that we know of has there been an adjudication process with a hearing before a judge or an administrative judge. Nor have the veterans in most cases been examined by a psychiatrist, psychologist or even an MD,” he continued. “[Then Attorney General]-Eric Holder decided that anyone who works for the VA can declare veterans incompetent for any reason including having their bills paid automatically out of their bank accounts.”
Lately, he reported, some veterans “have never gotten any letter or official notification from the VA. They find out they are on the NCIS list when they try to purchase a firearm. Often they can’t even find out why they are on the list.”
His organization’s legal fight so far includes the VA, the FBI, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
A Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman has told WND the letters to veterans were no more than routine. But questions about why the letters are being sent, what evidence is used to determine a veteran is incapable of managing his or her affairs, who provides that information and why it is provided remain unanswered.