The House of Representatives passed two sensible veterans bills Thursday.
H.R. 1181 protects veterans who suffer PTSD or other mental incapacitation from being summarily declared mentally defective and prohibited from owning firearms, without a finding by a jury of their peers.
I can tell you from many personal conversations with Soldiers, some very close to me, that the Army (and to some degree, the other branches) is quick to “Med Board” people who exhibit PTSD symptoms. Not everyone–it depends on how many are in a particular MOS (job) and other factors like how much the government invested in training. So an Airborne Ranger might receive more therapy than an 11-Bravo ground-pounder.
Once cut loose, many of these veterans receive the treatment they badly need; many don’t and languish in dark suicidal places. (Parenthetically, if you want to support the best non-government program for treating wounded vets, give freely to the Roever Foundation. I offer no apology for plugging them. They do what others can’t or won’t do.)
Medically retired veterans on disability for mental incapacitation have been ripe for denial of Second Amendment rights. Not every vet is the “Deer Hunter” but they’ve been treated that way. There’s absolutely no reason a veteran who is receiving treatment shouldn’t be able to exercise Second Amendment rights–with an important caveat.
That being said, the caveat is that someone needs to determine whether a veteran should be adjudicated by his peers to be mentally defective. Tragedies like the murder of former SEAL Chris Kyle could have been (potentially) prevented if there were a procedure to identify and classify truly disturbed individuals.
Many states have erred on the side of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. H.R. 1181 gives veterans the same rights as other citizens, regardless of why they separated from the service.
H.R. 1259 is an absolutely awesome bill, if it’s actually implemented. It reads, “To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct, and for other purposes.”
No agency is further under the bus to get rid of the worst employees than the VA. The level of opaqueness, coverups, pencil-whipping, and overall apathy towards those they are specifically employed to serve is shocking and disgusting. This culture has built up over years of neglect and papering over of real problems.
Now is the time to clean house at the VA. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin has a near-impossible task ahead of him as it is. Without a law allowing him special power to dispense with government employee protections, the VA would languish like it did under Eric Shinseki and Bob McDonald. McDonald was supposed to clean things up after Shinseki disgraced himself, but got absolutely nowhere.
Reading the first part of §719 alone makes me feel like Shulkin has a chance where the others never did.
“§ 719. Employees: removal, demotion, or suspension based on performance or misconduct
“(a) In General.—The Secretary may remove, demote, or suspend an individual who is an employee of the Department if the Secretary determines the performance or misconduct of the individual warrants such removal, demotion, or suspension. If the Secretary so removes, demotes, or suspends such an individual, the Secretary may—
“(1) remove the individual from the civil service (as defined in section 2101 of title 5);
“(2) demote the individual by means of a reduction in grade for which the individual is qualified, that the Secretary determines is appropriate, and that reduces the annual rate of pay of the individual; or
“(3) suspend the individual.
If this becomes law, it gives President Trump reason to hold Shulkin’s feet to the fire and demand real reform. Veterans all over the country will applaud.
In fact, were I Shulkin, I’d institute the kind of feedback system that companies use to rate personal-contact employees (like Uber does). Every call, every appointment should be rated by the patient or veteran being served. The first place to get overhauled has to be those who have personal contact. Good ratings means keep your job. Poor ratings means you’re gone.
Then proceed to the management and administrative side. This system takes the burden off supervisors and administrators to determine who is worthy and who isn’t. Then the incompetent administrators will stick out like sore thumbs–I’d let the employees under them rate their bosses. And instead of kicking the jerks upstairs as is done so often in government, they should be kicked out the door.
I hope both of these sensible and no-nonsense bills become law quickly. Kudos to Reps. David Roe (R, TN-1), Conaway, Wenstrup, Dunn, Bilirakis, and Sessions for their sponsorship of H.R. 1181; and again to Roe and his 28 co-sponsors for H.R. 1259.