Purple Heart winner gets black eye from VA

Sgt. Wayne Irelan of Lavaca, Ark., re-enlisted in the Army National Guard after 9/11. He was deployed to Iraq, where he was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.

He recovered from his physical wounds but remains under the care of the Veterans Administration for post-traumatic stress disorder. His wife, Lana, says he has never been violent, but because of the disorder, she has been appointed his fiduciary to handle his veterans' benefits and finances.

Earlier this year, Irelan attempted to pay a rifle out of pawn. That's when he learned he is one of 170,000 veterans the VA considers to be "a mental defective" because they have a fiduciary handling their affairs and, therefore, are prohibited from possessing firearms.

"I really feel betrayed," he said. "It's wrong. Laws need to be changed. They need to look at individuals and not stereotype them as some sort of mad man."

On Sept. 15, the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee passed an amendment by Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.) to provide individuals receiving veterans' benefits with added protection against loss of the right to possess firearms due to mental health decisions. Legislation that would force a judge to declare someone incompetent, not the VA.

Rep. Boozman's amendment to a larger veterans' benefits bill was based on a bill (H.R. 2547) sponsored by Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kans.).

"The VA arbitrarily turns these folks over to the FBI, and then they yank their ability to have their Second Amendment rights," Boozman said. "So these individuals are not; just because you're having trouble with your finances doesn't mean you're incapable of owning a fire arm and going hunting and things like that, which are very, very important to many of these individuals."

Boozman says he hopes the legislation is passed by the end of September.