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New VA Funding Bill Includes Provision To Protect Veterans’ Second Amendment Rights

Congress’ funding deal overturns a longstanding “discriminatory” policy that Republican opponents said could restrict veterans’ Second Amendment rights.

The provision included in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2024 bans the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) from submitting veterans’ names to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check without a judge’s consent. House Republicans argue without the provision, veterans who need help with their finances but do not pose a threat could be stripped of their Second Amendment rights to own firearms.

“For far too long, the men and women who have fought for all American’s constitutional rights were wrongfully treated differently when it came to their own rights,” Republican Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee who championed the provision, said in a statement. “No veteran should lose their constitutional right to bear arms simply because they need help managing their finances, and if they are a danger to themselves or others, a judge should make that decision – not a VA bureaucrat.”

Under existing policy and a law that goes back to 1993, veterans who demonstrate an inability to manage their finances or benefits on their own are automatically reported to the NICS list without their informed consent, according to Bost. The veteran would be banned from purchasing firearms even without any judgment in a court of law that the person could be a harm to themselves or others.

Legislation to end the “discriminatory” practice is “long overdue,” he added.

Democratic lawmakers opposed the move on the grounds it increases hurdles federal workers must clear to report potential threats, according to Military Times.

In 2022, roughly 8,000 veterans were reported to the NICS primarily for reasons relating to financial troubles and not connected to criminal activity or mental health issues, Bost said, according to Military Times.

The act also includes $20.3 billion for the VA’s Toxic Exposures Fund required to cover costs associated with expanded benefits mandated by the 2022 PACT Act. It covers compensation for injuries veterans sustained from burn pit smoke, chemical contamination and other toxins while serving in the military.

Overall, the act allocates $328 billion for the VA to spend in fiscal year 2024 — a budget about 8% larger than the previous year’s — and is part of a $467.5 billion spending package unveiled as part of a compromise deal with the Senate and covering six different departments. While government continues to operate on extensions of the fiscal year 2023 budget, the omnibus 2024 appropriations act is expected to clear the Senate to fully fund the government through Sept. 30, 2024.

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