A February 2012 memorandum of understanding between the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) lays out a process pursuant to which the VA has been regularly sending to the FBI mental health information about VA patients. So reports Patrick Howley at the Daily Caller on Tuesday. The mental health information transferred is intended to aid the FBI in adding individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) list of individuals restricted from owning or possessing guns.
The Daily Caller article quotes an astonishingly cavalier statement the VA provided in response to the article’s disclosure:
‘The Department of Veterans Affairs’ policy to inform veterans of their rights regarding the Brady Act has not changed,’ VA told TheDC in a statement. ‘As has been policy for multiple administrations, VA acts in accordance with federal law and works with the Department of Justice to properly maintain the NICS database. VA notifies any veteran who may be deemed by VA to be mentally incapable of managing his or her own funds of the opportunity to contest this determination and also to seek relief from the reporting requirements under the Brady Act, as required by law.’
The VA’s stated justification for its actions leads to many discomforting questions.
What of the long-respected American legal protection of doctor-patient confidentiality? Is it, and all other privacy protections, just a phantom of the past in this age of US government mass surveillance?
How can the VA claim that its actions are justified because it informs patients of the privacy-violating, rights-restricting policy it uses against patients? These veterans, many of whom are seeking help necessitated by their work in the military, often have the only other option of seeking outside help on their own dime — something the government told them they would not have to do. Patients may logically choose to waive confidentiality to some degree in some instances, but this seems far from a fair waiver situation. It looks more like duress.
Where is the due process? You do not meet due process by summarily depriving someone of the ability to exercise his rights without even a court adjudication and then “generously” allowing him to go through a long, confusing, and expensive process of attempting to prove the deprivation was not justified. That turns due process on its head. Examples of VA determinations of mental health in the Daily Caller article suggest that in some cases the determinations go far beyond lacking due process and descend into the realm of total nonsense.
Where is the recognition that the rights at issue here are explicitly protected in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution? It seems the VA values a vague reference to “policy for multiple administrations” above the Constitution.
You can read here, here, here, here, here, and here more Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity reports regarding the ongoing expansion of the scope of mental health databases and of the databases’ use by the US and state governments to prevent people from exercising gun rights.