When someone joins the United States Army, that person swears the Oath of Enlistment, which is as follows: “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” It would make sense that people who swear the above oath, who serve honorably in the ranks, and who literally shed their blood for the Constitution of the United States could expect to get back a little true faith and allegiance, expect some righteous defense of their own Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. Apparently not . . .
Especially if they make the mistake of applying for the wrong VA benefit, if it can actually be called a “benefit.”
The specific benefit is called the “Aid and Assistance/Housebound” and is meant for veterans so disabled that they cannot take care of themselves at all. It allows a small stipend to help a designated caretaker provide for the severely-disabled vet.
Sgt. Wayne Irelan of Arkansas, wounded in combat in Iraq and awarded the Purple Heart, made the mistake of signing up for this benefit.
For the Irelans to receive this benefit the VA first declared Wayne’s PTSD to be so bad that he was considered “mentally incompetent,” and his wife Lana was designated his caretaker. Only Wayne apparently didn’t realize what else he was signing up for besides that small amount of money.
Any vet declared to be mentally incompetent instantly loses his rights to own firearms or ammunition. And those rights are stripped regardless of what that vet has actually done.
You read that correctly. All it takes is a declaration by some government bureaucrat, and a veteran’s rights–the exact same rights guaranteed by the Constitution he swore to defend with his own life–can be stripped away. Even if the vet hasn’t done anything wrong.
About a year after he started receiving the Aid and Assistance/Housebound stipend, Wayne Irelan got a letter from the Arkansas State Police saying his Arkansas concealed carry permit had been revoked.
I teach Arkansas CCW permit classes. I know the process required to get a permit very well. To get an Arkansas CCW permit, Wayne had to pass a class and submit fingerprints to the Arkansas State Police, who then passed his prints along to the FBI who also did a background check.
After Wayne got background checked by the State Police and FBI, the State Police notified the Sheriff’s office in the county in which Wayne lived. And if Wayne lived inside city limits when he applied for his permit, that city’s Chief of Police was also notified that Sgt. Irelan had applied for a CCW permit.
According to Arkansas law, both the County Sheriff and the Chief of Police have 120 days to tell the State Police to reject the application, if they have good reason to do so.
For example, local law enforcement might know that Applicant X is a habitual violent drunk who hasn’t yet been actually arrested or convicted of anything. Unlikely as it might be for that situation to actually exist, I can see why law enforcement would prefer that Applicant X not get a concealed carry permit
But before Sgt Irelan received his Arkansas CCW permit, he was checked out by the Arkansas State Police, the FBI, and okayed by a county Sheriff and probably a Chief of Police.
Even if somebody gets a permit, Arkansas law lists several offenses or arrests that will cause an issued permit to be revoked. As far as I can tell from media reports, Sgt. Wayne Irelan has never been arrested or accused of any offense. His Arkansas CCW permit was revoked only because he applied for and received this particular VA benefit.
What’s more, he and his wife Lana did not know that Wayne’s gun rights had been stripped until they tried to recover a gun that they had pawned for a little extra cash. That’s right. Wayne Irelan fought and bled for this country, but nobody could be bothered to inform him that the VA had stripped his gun rights away until after he tried to get his gun out of hock at a pawn shop.
Not only did Wayne find out the hard way, the Irelans were then told by the ATF that they could both go to prison if a gun was found in their home. It’s not bad enough that Wayne Irelan’s gun rights been stripped, but the gun rights of everyone who lives in his house, or who visits his house, have also been stripped.
If one of Wayne’s friends or relatives gets a new turkey shotgun for Christmas, he can forget taking it over to Wayne’s house to show it off. That simple, very natural action could now land both the Irelans in federal prison.
If Lana Irelan wants an Arkansas CCW permit, she can get one. However, she can’t have a gun in her own house to protect her life and Wayne’s life, so long as Wayne lives under the same roof.
I talked about this case with a good friend of mine here in Arkansas who is also a Purple Heart recipient and Iraq War veteran. He told me that what happened to the Irelans is sadly a common occurrence.
My friend told me that vets sometimes apply for this benefit, hoping only to get a little extra cash, but they have no idea what the VA and the ATF will do to them if they actually get the benefit.
He told me that he has personally helped other vets in the same situation recover their gun rights, but that the process is long and costly, especially for somebody who got into the situation only because he needed money in the first place.
It’s also not a sure thing, either. It will take a petition to a federal judge for Wayne to be declared competent, and for the VA’s finding to be rescinded. Then the judge will have to issue court orders to get Irelan’s CCW permit and gun rights restored. The Irelans will also have to pay back all the money they received from the benefit program.
After all this is done, if it can be done, Sgt. Wayne Irelan will forever be on the ATF’s radar. My friend tells me that the vets he helped out can buy guns again, but they are made to wait three days before picking up the gun, because of the extra-special attention from the ATF.
That’s how the VA treats men and women who take the Oath of Enlistment, and who lose time spent with their friends and family in the service of the United States Army. That’s how veterans who get wounded defending the Constitution of the United States are rewarded if they apply for the wrong “benefit” that they probably feel, with lots of justification, that they are owed.
As bad as all this is, it’s not even the worst part.
My friend told me that many vets who hear about such cases, and who see stuff like this in the media, deliberately choose to not seek help because they fear that their rights will be taken away. Another friend of mine I talked to, also an Iraq War vet, wondered if he’d be the next one to get his rights stripped.
Service men and women who legitimately need help with PTSD avoid getting that help because they fear what the VA, the ATF, the state police, their government will do to them and their families.
It’s simply outrageous.