How Mental Health Conditions Can Affect Gun Ownership and Law Enforcement Careers

Although it is a great chance to maximize their VA disability rate and benefits, Veterans often refuse to file mental health claims. Many think that it can impose some restrictions on their lifestyle and employment options. 

We have already discussed the 6 most common myths about mental health disorders among Veterans, today we would like to focus on one topic that is rife with misconceptions: 

How mental health conditions can affect your ability to own a gun and/or pursue a career in fields like law enforcement. 

Mental Health and Mental Incompetence

The Gun Control Act of 1968 outlines the law that prevents certain people from owning or possessing firearms based on mental health criteria, where include:

  • Adjusted as a Mentally Defective
    An individual who is found unable to stand trial due to their mental disease or defect, lack of mental responsibility, or insanity. This status can only be assigned by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority. 
  • Committed to a Mental Institution
    Someone who was involuntarily placed or admitted to a psychiatric facility or mental health institution for treatment due to mental illness or a mental health crisis. This commitment typically occurs through a court order or involuntary psychiatric hold, depending on the jurisdiction and circumstances.

Technically, these are the only two instances that can prevent Veterans with mental health conditions from possessing guns.

However, there is another term that can play an important role on owning firearms or working in law enforcement – Mental incompetence. This is the mental inability to contract or manage your own affairs due to an injury or disease that causes cognitive impairment. 

Being diagnosed and getting a VA disability rating for PTSD or any other mental health disorder does not automatically mean that you are mentally incompetent.

This status can only be assigned by a court decision. Even if a Veteran is found mentally incompetent, it still does not mean that they cannot own firearms.

State Laws, Mental Health and Gun Ownership

Keep in mind that different states may have their own regulations regarding mental health and gun ownership. For example, California is known for its particularly strict gun laws, including the Red Flag Law, which permits a state court to order confiscating firearms from someone they believe may pose a danger.

While Texas has less restrictive legislation when it comes to gun ownership. However, the state requires court clerks to report the involuntary mental health commitments of all individuals starting at the age of 16 to prevent people who had serious mental health problems at any point in their lives from purchasing guns.

We strongly recommend checking your local gun ownership laws and consulting a qualified legal professional if you are not sure whether you can legally own firearms or believe that your gun ownership rights are restricted unfairly.

Mental Incompetence and Veteran Gun Rights

As of March 2024, nearly 109,000 US Veterans were found mentally incompetent. The VA appoints a financial manager to mentally incompetent Veterans, who is then responsible for their financial affairs.  

Until recently, this status also had a huge impact on a Veteran’s ability to buy and own weapons as the VA automatically reported their names to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used for background checks during gun purchases.

However, due to a bipartisan compromise deal between the House and Senate in March 2024, before reporting a name to NICS, the VA must first need to obtain a judge’s order that officially declares a Veteran is a danger to themselves or others.

The bottom line is, unless there is solid evidence that you are a danger to yourself or others, being diagnosed and rated for a mental health condition and even being found mentally incompetent won’t prevent you from buying and owning a firearm.

Can A Mental Health Disability Affect Your Career in Law Enforcement?

Starting a career in law enforcement after discharge is a logical choice. During your military service, you developed the skills and mindset essential to becoming a police officer, state trooper, or border control agent. 

A career in law enforcement is not just a great career opportunity for a Veteran, but also a choice that can help Veterans overcome challenges that occur after discharge like loneliness, trouble finding new friends and building new relationships, or adapting to an entirely new lifestyle and mindset. These challenges can lead to more serious issues like alcoholism and substance abuse as well as the development and aggravation of mental health conditions.

But what if you are already diagnosed and rated for PTSD, depression, or any other mental health disorder? Does it mean that you cannot work in law enforcement? Not necessarily.

According to the data published by the United States Department of Justice, 15% of officers in US law enforcement suffer from symptoms of PTSD

In other words, people who suffer from symptoms of various mental health conditions can continue to work in law enforcement. Moreover, since about 20% of law enforcement are Veterans, the VA works closely with police departments and other law enforcement agencies to help them improve and adjust their training using the invaluable experience of military personnel in various fields, including dealing with traumatizing experiences.

Once you decide to join law enforcement, you’ll undergo a series of checkups and tests that will determine whether you are fit for the job both physically and mentally. Being diagnosed with PTSD or any other mental health condition won’t be an obstacle if you demonstrate that it does not affect your ability to perform the job.

Moreover, according to various reports, law enforcement agencies welcome candidates with military past who openly speak about their mental health conditions and the treatment they receive.

The bottom line is, that being diagnosed with a mental health condition and claiming your VA disability benefits for these conditions does not disqualify you from starting a career in law enforcement.

By the same token, hiding information about your mental health or lying about your symptoms and their effect on your life and ability to perform your duties may have severe consequences and shut the doors to a career in law enforcement.

Final Thoughts

We believe that knowledge is the key and we at VCU do our best to help Veterans and their families make informed decisions and take full control over their disability cases.

Don’t miss career opportunities due to myths and misconceptions! Book your FREE 30-minute call with one of VCU’s Veteran Specialists today! We will answer all your questions, address all possible concerns, and use all our experience and an extensive network of independent professionals to help you gain and increase your VA disability rate and claim what is rightfully yours.  

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