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United States. Congress. House. Committee on Veter.

Viewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 online

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directly contributed to many individual's criminal behavior.

The recidivism, or, return to prison, rates among veterans
versus non-veterans released from penal systems across this
country have demonstrated that, particularly prior to the
year of 1990, veterans returned at a rate of between sixteen
(16) to eighteen (18) percent higher that non-veterans. It
was also found that drug and/or alcohol played major roles in
both groups return to prison after release to the community.

During the year of 1989, our United States Congress accepted
the Research Triangle Institute's (RTI ) Study which stated
that in excess of 800,000 Vietnam combat theater veterans had
suffered, since their return from the battle ground, either
significant to severe symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD). Although this detailed report demonstrated
to Congress that approximately one (1) of every four (U) (in



101

that approximately 2.9 million American served in Vietnam)
individuals whom personally participated in the conflict of
South Vietnam had suffered from this noted psychological
disorder to some degree, interestingly, not one single one on
one interview was conducted within a state or federal prison
system. Truly, these "Forgotten Warriors" whom had once
served their beloved country with honor, must be considered
as also suffering from the symptoms of PTSD - at very least -
to the same degree as their non-convicted felon counterparts.

The United States Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) has
previously found that there is a direct relationship between
symptoms of PTSD and "secondary" drug and/or alcohol abuse or
addiction among veterans. In fact, the department has found
in many, if not most cases where these duel disorders occur,
that the drug and alcohol patterns are a clear form of "self-
medication" a^mong combat veterans to deal with symptomo 1 ogy .

The department also found that treatment of both disorders in
succession (first one, then the other) has produced the most
successful results towards healing afflicted veterans.

Mario Cuomo, the most Honorable Governor of the great state
of New York, was presented with a significant report in 1993
by his State Department Of Corrections (DOC) regarding rates
of recidivism of veterans whom had been exposed to six (6) to
twenty-four (24) months of specific veteran oriented duel
disorder treatments during incarceration. The report found
that among veterans and non-veterans whom did not have an
opportunity to attend such veteran treatment/rehabilitation
opportunities during terms of incarceration, over a forty-
eight (48) month review period, the recidivism rate remained-
at approximately forty-nine (49) percent. Among those
veterans, with particular regard to the Vietnam combat
veteran exposed to the DOC program, the rate of recidivism
was drastically reduced to approximately that of eight (8) to
only nine (9) percent after 48 months of study.

Other individual states where vet t reatment /rehabi 1 i tat i on
programs have been launched or established during the recent
six (6) years, are developing statistics with similar ratios
of success and reduced recidivism.

On a national level involving fourteen (14) states, Vietnam
Veterans of America directly assisted over two thousand and
seventy-eight (2,078) individual Vietnam combat veterans both
prior to and after their release from a state prison system
with an outstanding result after four (4) years of review.
QnXx - and, I vigorously underscore the word "only", a total
of one hundred and seven (107) have returned to the prison
environment. of this total, ninety-six (96) returned as a
direct result of drug violations, five (5) for new crimes
(non-violent in nature) against the community and six (6) for
new crimes which involved violence and/or a weapon used



102



during the commission of their new crimes. This actuality of
national case study proves to reduce participating veteran's
recidivism to a degree of only, approximately ... five (5)
percent .

Over fourteen (Ik) years ago our Congress found that some
form of "store front" vehicle was necessary to assist in
outreach to the veteran community to deal with the issues of
PTSD and "readjustment" needs among Vietnam veterans. Thus,
a Readjustment Counseling Program (i.e., "Vet Centers") was
established in our communities to deal with local, community
veterans .

While found to be of great success in completing their unique
mission and purpose. Vet Center's had no provision to provide
readjustment, counseling services within prison systems found
within their catchment area of operations.

Since the year of 1988, upon my own release from federal
prison for the conviction of a firearm violation, I have had
the opportunity to travel to twenty-three (23) states and
work very actively in establishing many programs for veteran
inmate populations. In many states I have even had the
opportunity to assist in the individual programs for the
state's Department of Corrections with great success. By
success, I count - as does each state now participating in
some form of specific veteran program, the rate of recidivism
among individual, veteran participants.

Quite simply, after almost six (6) full years of my personal
involvement, since the date of May 10, 1988, in developing
these programs, unquestionably, the programs have proven to
"work" far better than any other previously tested.

In March of 1993, Mr. Al Gore, Vice-President of these United
States, responded to my previous correspondence with a firm
commitment from the White House to address the issues of
veterans incarcerated. Since receiving Mr. Gore's letter, I
have enjoyed a very productive working relationship with many
federal agencies regarding veterans incarcerated.

Just one (1) year ago, April of 1993, Dr. Law, of the Central
Offices ( VA ) responded to a previous correspondence addressed
to the President, Bill Clinton. Dr. Law's response was at
the President's request and referral. In his report to me.
Dr. Law stated that one (1) of every four (U) Vet Centers
nation wide were currently working directly with prison facil
-ities and treating/counseling veterans in readjustment and
PTSD needs quite successfully.

On April Ik, 1994, honorable members of the United States
House of Representatives, with support of Representative's
Lane Evans, Don Edwards, David Bonior and George Brown,
passed the "en bloc" Amendment under H.R. 4092.



103



The Amendment portion of most substantial importance reads:
"1 (8) assurances that the state or states have

2 implemented, or will implement within 18 months

3 after the date of the enactment of this Act, policies
1$^ to determine veteran status of inmates and to

5 ensure that incarcerated veterans receive the veter-

6 ans benefits to which they are entitled. "

Indeed, this en bloc Amendment, itself, has "Jit the match"
for those totally forgotten warriors who once served their
country with distinction, pride and honor. Unfortunately,
the United States Senate-passed Crime Bill did not include
any similar provisions, so in order for the "candle-wick to
take the flame", so to speak, there must be a conference
dec i s i on .

DISCUSSION

Veterans were veterans first, regardless of what else may
have occurred in their lives since their return to society,
many times from a battle-field.

By virtue of their active duty services, certain rights,
entitlements and benefits are guaranteed for these veterans
by and through the United States Department of Veterans'
Affairs regardless of their status of incarceration.

The currently noted statistics regarding both the number of
veterans incarcerated and the much higher incidence of drug
and/or alcohol abuse/addictions contributing the criminal
behavior supports the theory that many veterans, particularly
"combat" exposed veterans, are incarcerated for crimes which
may clearly be related to, or, the direct/indirect result of
their military careers (e.g.. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
with "secondary" drug/alcohol abuse/addiction in effort to
se 1 f -medi cate the symptoms).

The most recent documentations regarding veteran treatment/
rehabilitation (New York State Department of Corrections)
during terms of incarceration demonstrates a significant
reduction (without program *9% recidivism, with, 8-9% return)
of new crimes committed by released veteran offenders.

During the previous six (6) years of time while developing
multiple program of treatment/rehabilitation of incarcerated
veterans, it has been found and proven that very little cost
is associated with implementing and facilitating these direct
and much needed services to this most deserving group.



104



When the House and Senate decide, in conference, to continue
to support the above cited portion of the en bloc Amendment
[(8) 1, 2, 3, k , 5, 6], they will not only be making the
right decision for veterans, but the smartest decision that
may be made for our American society. Time and statistics
have proven that such programs "work" in reducing new crime
in our communities - thus reduces prison populations, costs
of security, penal housing, medical care, rehabilitation and
education - per one individual at a time. Also, those costs
associated with such new crimes against society or persons
(e.g., investigations, arrests, trials and convictions) must
be considered by Congress.

The simple passage of the "en bloc" Amendment and HR '^09Z

will not, in and of itself, reduce crime or recidivism among
that substantial portion of America prison populations, about
one of every five inmates found to be veterans. We will need
both the support of the full Congress and particularly of
this committee to enforce each and every provision so stated
and/or established under the Crime Bill - if, at conference
of both House and Senate the right decision is made regarding
veterans incarcerated and rehabilitation services.

RECOMMENDATION »l - THE FEDERAL PRISON SYSTEM

The DOJ/BOP, per written statement to my office by Dr. Hawk,
which I would be most happy to produce upon request, appears
to be quite proud of the seven (7) veteran programs it now
has established. Based on the noted population of veterans
documented by Dr. Hawk in March of 1993, seven (7) programs
nation wide will only address the "tip of the iceberg" with
regard to the total need. Seven (7) programs are totally
inadequate to adequately handle the actual needs of the BOP
veteran population.

During the years of 1990 and 1991 I personally worked with
both the DOJ/BOP and the Department of Veterans' Affairs to
develop a working Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between
these two federal agencies. I had even, at the request of
those administrators previously empowered in the Central
Offices of DOJ/BOP, written the MOU for both agencies. These
two federal agencies, although they had met with each other
to work out final details, never fulfilled their obligations
to develop cost effective, treatment and rehabilitation
programs for veterans within the BOP. By the beginning of
the year 1992, DOJ/BOP had begun rotating employees from and
out of the Central Offices. Quite simply, the "balJ was
dropped" with a change of DOJ/BOP administration.

A MANDATE by the House and Senate Committee on Veter.fvns'
Affairs - to the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) Central
Offices specifically ordering that an inter-agency program
must be developed in conjunction to en bloc and HR 4092 with
a specific time deadline to do so. Along with the Veterans'



105



Affairs Committee's mandate or order, a similar order and/or
UANDATE from both the House and Senate's Judiciary committees
must be sent to the DOJ/BOP with a specific time deadline to
develop an expanded federal prison system program for
veterans - beyond the seven (7) isolated programs currently
in existence. Seven (7) institutional programs falls short
of the needs based on the total veteran populations, at least
in my professional opinion, and fifteen (15) BOP programs
scattered across the country would be much more adequate - if
new crimes executed by veteran ex-offenders is to be reduced.

RECOMMENDATION »2 - STATE PRISON SYSTEMS AND PILOT PROGRAMS

As to the individual state, or states, system of development,
there are only a few Vet Centers across the country at this
time that I am aware of that simply "refused" to perform any
type of outreach and counseling to veterans incarcerated. In
the event that this committee sends a mandate or order to the
Department (VA), it should include a notification from the
Central Office (VA) to each and every Vet Center expressly
stating that, upon individual DOC ' s request and if the prison
facility clearly falls within the center's catchment area of
operation, counselors of the center should provide service of
some level to veterans prior to their community release. The
term "service" should not be restricted to only "pre-release"
type of presentations, rather, servicing veterans with regard
to readjustment, PTSD and secondary abuse patterns.

The Department of Veterans' Affairs should provide either
direct diagnostics or educate and/or train DOC physicians in
the areas of VA diagnostics with regard to rating veteran's
"service connected" disabilities. Such as is the case with
most VA medical centers, the department contracts with those
doctors or physicians who perform COMPENSATION/PENSION exams
of veterans seeking to establish, or, to increase degrees of
service connected disability. It would seem only logical
that the department consider contracting with DOCs, in the
event that they can not send in a VA preferred physician, to
evaluate claims of disability for individual veterans during
incarceration. •

During October of 1993 I personally met with Mr. Mac Flemning
of Chairman Montgomery's offices and gained informal support
regarding an establishment of between six (6) to nine (9)
"pilot" programs for individual states. These states, in the
order of potential priority, are Michigan, New York, Florida,
California, Illinois, Washington (state), Ohio, Pennsylvania
and Texas. In each of these states there already exists some
productive program developments which have proven success
towards rehabilitation of veterans. In each, the state
government, in various degrees, has already established
undisputable programs which reduce new crime and recidivisms
among veteran inmate populations. With the right support
from the US Government towards expanding the current veteran



106



prison programs, these states could be used as the models for
the rest of our country.

As a priority example, and toward conclusion of this state-
ment, may I now embellish on circumstances and programs with

in the Michigan Department of Corrections for all veterans

i ncarce rated.

Currently, within the Department of Corrections, there are
twelve (12) incorporated, functioning Chapters of Vietnam
Veterans Of America, Incorporated (VVA) with two (2) new
chapters forming. Of these VVA Chapters, four (4) exist in
one of our country's largest single prison complex, Jackson.

The Michigan community and the American society has gained
much from the efforts of these veterans incarcerated in their
focused, responsible charity campaigns. Each year these
veteran inmates raise large sums of money for such community
projects as M.D., Miles For Miracles, homeless (veterans and
non-veterans) projects, food drives, etc., from within the
penal facilities. Currently, following the precedence
previously set by another incarcerated VVA Chapter in Ohio,
these veterans are building "soap-box cars" and co-sponsoring
their first "Special Kids Soap-box Derby Races". The Special
Kids are mentally handicapped children whom would not
otherwise have such an opportunity.

The Governor of this great state has previously contacted our
VVA State Council President regarding many potential program
developments for the veteran incarcerated populations - to
also include the potential of early release of those veterans
whom have demonstrated to be "role-models" during confinement
to the DOC and productive participation in the formed veteran
groups, VVA Chapters.

The Wardens of these institutions have long supported the
efforts and focus of these commendable veterans and their
efforts as active participation in such VVA Chapters has also
shown a drastic reduction of disciplinary problems and/or
charges by the veteran participants. Quite simply, when each
veteran gets involved with the group, they stay out of any/
all t roubl e .

Jackson prison facility currently has one of the most modern
medical facilities to be found with this country in a state
penal system. An administrative prison medical physician has
committed to perform necessary Compensation/Pension medical
examinations of veterans confined to Jackson, however, this
doctor is not educated or qualified by the VA to perform such
needy and appropriate tasks for veterans suffering from
service connected disabilities. As an experienced medical
doctor, it would probably take very little training for him
to be capable of providing the appropriate VA required forms
and information to adequately diagnose service connected



107



disabilities among veterans. At this same time, a high level
VA employee, whom has been providing psychological counseling
and treatment for veterans located in Milan, a BOP federal
prison system some distance further away from his assigned VA
medical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, than the Jackson
facility, has not gained approval to travel to this state's
facility to provide veterans with much needed treatments.

Solution; simple as it may seem, though very hard at this
time to accomplish, allow this DOC physician to receive the
necessary training to perform VA diagnostics of veterans with
disabilities, and provide same with a copy of the "Physicians
Guide" in order that he may do so completely under the VA's
regulations and policies. Why has this not already occurred?
Because the VA has simply not made any effort to do so.

What can be done? Very, very simple; a member of this
committee could simply telephone the VA Medical Center
hospital Administrator in Ann Arbor, Michigan, located about
twenty (20) minutes drive from the Jackson prison facility,
and inform he, or she, that it is alright to provide such
needed training to this most worthy and inspired DOC doctor.

So IS also the case around the country in those states that
have acted responsibly to identify the veteran problems,
allowed self-help groups and/or VVA Chapters to be formed,
and now enjoy the fruits of such labor by the obviously seen
reduction of incidence during incarceration among veteran
participants and reduction of recidivism upon release to the
communi ty .

IN CONCLUSION

I have brought these statements to this most distinct and
honored committee as a "service connected" disabled Vietnam
Era veteran - as a veteran whom, myself, served on either
probation, parole or incarceration for an extended period of
my own life (approximately seventeen years in capacity), and
a role model, if you will, of what results can actually come
from the right kind counseling and direct assistance during
an incarceration for a felony conviction.

I was a highschool "drop-out", leaving behind an education in
order that I could enlist in the military and "serve" my
great country during the Vietnam war, as my father did in
Korea, before me. I had never used drugs or alcohol.

As a young man, much less mature than I could realize at that
time, I made an ill-fated decision to take my first puff of a
marihuana cigarette, or "joint", during active duty. Shortly
thereafter, while experimenting with fellow comrades, I took
my first LSD (or, know as "acid") trip. From that point I
evolved to heroin and eventual addiction. Quite frankly, in
looking back on that devastating time period of my own life,
I was somewhat the "kid in a candy store". I underwent three



108



(3) separate drug overdoses during my military career.

Upon my Honorable Discharge from active duty, which was at
the convenience of the government, I was declared by a doctor
/psychologist at the Trippler U.S. Army Hospital located in
Hawaii, as a "non-rehabi 1 i table drug addict". I was informed
at time of discharge that had it not been for my outstanding
performances during service, prior to the drug involvements,
I would not have received the "HOMORABLE" discharge.

I traveled from point of discharge in California to the
Houston VA Medical Center for continual medical care for
service connected physical disabilities. At that time, in
1972, I received absolutely no treatment or counseling for my
drug abuse/addiction problems. Instead, I received pain
medications and sleeping pills as my violent, recorded
nightmares disturbed the entire ward of this VA hospital.

My first arrest and conviction came as a result of my trading
VA medication to an undercover police officer in San Antonio,
Texas, shortly after my release - against medical advice,
from a VA medical center located in Houston, Texas, in 1972.

Quite sincerely, I have "walked the walk and talked the talk"

that comes with grossly mis-guided behavior and the criminal
conduct associated with drug and alcohol abuse/addictions. I
know, realize and appreciate all too well the plight of those
veterans currently incarcerated across this great country.

For point of record, I was both the founder and first
President of the first VVA Chapter within the state of Texas,
at the Federal Correctional Institute of Texarkana, Texas,
and I submit that I have personally felt and grown as both an
individual and "productive member" of my American society as
a result of my personal involvement with such groups during
conf i nement .

I shall never forget the past, nor will I ever be proud of it
- but I am desperately tired of being ashamed of it.

With these facts in mind, I suggest to each member of this
committee and to all of Congress, that productive passage and
development of programs for veterans incarcerated shall do
much, much more than provide services to those that "earned"
them. ... In essence, you will provide hope for a future, a
sense of distinction and selfworth, respect, pride, integrity
and most of all - a prayer for the future of each and every
individual whom may finally stand forward before their
country and society as an accepted, "productive citizen" whom
once fought bravely on the blood-stained soils of another
count ry .

Thank you, God Bless you, all those whom once served, and, my
mother, who believed in me & that I could make a difference.



10



109

GENERAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION - EMPLOYMENT & AFFILIATIONS



1988 - 1993 Nat ional ly Accredi ted Service Representat ive

Vietnam Veterans Of America, Incorporated

(under a Charter by "ACT" of US Congress)
[preparation, presentation and prosecution
of disability claims before United States
Department of Veterans' Affairs to include
the Court of Veteran's Appeals]

1989 - Present Execut ive Di rector Vietnam Veterans Resource

4 Service Center, Incorporated [501 c 3 non-
profit state service corporation]

1989 - 1990 Texas State Service Representat ive for the
Vietnam Veterans Of America Texas State
Council, Incorporated (501 (c) (19))

1989 - 1993 National Vice-Chai rman. Standing Committee

on Incarcerated Veterans' Affairs, Chai rman
of Committee from 1991 -1993 (VVA)

1990 - Present Special Deputy, The American Mental Health

Counselors Association (AMHCA)

1991 - Present National Liaison / Incarcerated Veterans,

Vietnam Veterans Of America, Incorporated

1991 - Present Member, Economic Affairs & Development Coiiin-

Ittee, Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc.

1991 - 1993 Member, Special Committee on Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder & Substance Abuse - WA

1991 - Present Special Consul tant, [ lATC] International

Association of Trauma Counselors - Committee
Incarcerated Veteran & Criminal Justice

1991 - Present Member & Presenter, American Correctional
Association (ACA)

1991 - Present Member of International Society of Traumatic
Stress Studies (ISTSS)

1993 - Present Member, National "Task Force" on Homeless
Veterans (VVA and other mul t i -agencies )

Testimonies involving veterans benefits, entitlements and
rights include the Committee of the Judiciary, United States
Congress; Veteran's Affairs Committee, United States Senate,
the United States Department Of Veterans' Affairs, court room
theaters and many state government legislatures.



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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on VeterViewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 → online text (page 13 of 23)