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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder   by Tom Berger

It has only been a few years since the DVA, military departments, and the criminal justice system have begun to understand the significance of delayed stress in the lives of many veterans. It is undisputed that creative treatment could rehabilitate tens of thousands of veterans, particularly those with bad discharges and criminal convictions. Many veterans languish in jails convicted and sentenced by courts that were never informed of the true psychiatric picture of the offender. The resources of the government should be used to inventory these cases.

An inquiry into the role PTSD and substance abuse may have played in a persons criminal acts are not an attempt to escape from responsibility; this inquiry is a reasonable examination into treatment and prevention of future antisocial acts.

The DVA handling of PTSD and substance-abuse compensation claims, while improving, still reflects part of the traditional attitude that such conditions only occur to those who were “predisposed.” Partially, as a result, the process merely becomes a search for an objective stressor.

The DVA still sometimes very narrowly interprets whether a veteran was prevented from using educational benefits for purposes of extending a delimiting date. A very traditional view of medically disabling conditions is used. PTSD and often attendant substance abuse problems are usually not considered as medically disabling.

Resolved, That:

Vietnam Veterans of America urges that:

1. The DVA establish a diagnostic and forensic unit or have available referral resources, which, upon request from a veteran or his/her counsel, will provide an evaluation of the role, if any, PTSD may have played in a criminal act. This requirement should apply at all stages of a criminal proceeding – even at the parole or other post conviction relief stage. The federal government should take the lead in establishing a program to assist the states in screening its incarcerated veteran population for legitimate PTSD cases for purposes of treatment and sentence and/or parole reevaluation and assist in the education of law enforcement personnel who make the initial decisions concerning a veteran arrestee.

2. The DVA act and seek legislation, if necessary, to extend the Vet Center outreach activities to incarcerated veterans. Adequate funding should be provided to meet this mandate.

3. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) act decisively to revise all directives and regulations which guide the rating board’s adjudication of PTSD claims. Too much emphasis is placed on combat and the objective proof of a stressor. As a result, the wrong claims may be granted purely after finding evidence of combat service, and proper claims are often denied for failure to conduct an in depth inquiry into the true nature of the stressor. The DVA should be obligated to conduct the often necessary unit records search to augment frequently incomplete military personnel records. Additionally, DVA Central Office policy should be changed and enforced requiring the use of current mental health standards regarding diagnosis of PTSD as set forth in the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, as published by the American Psychiatric Association.

4. The DVA amend its regulations specifically to recognize that a delimiting date for educational benefits can be extended if it can reasonably be shown that the veteran could not take meaningful advantage of these benefits because of PTSD, even if drugs, alcohol, and/or incarceration were part of the symptoms. Financial Impact Statement: In accordance with motion 8 passed at VVA January 2002 National Board of Directors meeting which charges this committee with the reviewing its relevant Resolutions and determining an expenditure estimate required to implement the Resolution, presented for consideration at the 2005 National Convention; this committee submits that implementation of the foregoing Resolution shall be at no cost to National except where staff time may be required for legislative action.
About the Author

Tom Berger is a writer for The VVA Veteran, the official voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ® An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. Learn more at



Immigration Reform: When will it happen? Will it happen?   by Donna Poisl

Immigration reform and illegal immigrants have lost the top spots in the news in the past month or so. There is almost no chance of it being taken care of in Congress this year. Wars in the middle east and 10 year old murder cases are all anyone is talking about now.

That may be good news for business owners who need these workers and for the workers who, for the time being at least, are out of the spotlight. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t still an extremely important problem. There are several different proposals on the board now and none of them are complete solutions.

Building a wall on part of the border with Mexico is too expensive, would destroy the land it goes through and probably would not keep people out anyway. The additional guards on the Arizona border now are keeping some out and are forcing more crossings into California.

Finding and deporting all 12 million people here illegally would be impossible, regardless of what the extremists say. It simply can’t be done.

Even if it could be done, how would businesses that employ these undocumented workers continue producing? Farms now have trouble finding enough workers to harvest the crops; without these undocumented workers available they would go out of business. Builders, factories and food processors would close down if their workers were suddenly removed.

The people who say we should stop all immigration don’t say how we would manage here without more people to replace our aging workers and low birthrate. Our unemployment rate now is less than 5%, most of the people who want to work are working. We don’t have enough young workers to fill all the low income and unskilled jobs that are keeping this economy going. Most of our young people want easier jobs and higher pay and aren’t interested in picking vegetables, cutting lawns or cleaning hotel rooms.

One proposal recommends that undocumented people who can prove they have been here more than five years can stay and apply for permanent residency. They can get on the path to citizenship if they follow certain rules and pay some fines, and back taxes if they owe any. Of course, they would have to learn English too.

The same proposal says that illegal immigrants who have been here two to five years should return to their homeland and come back in legally, but how many (or how few) would leave? These immigrants would have to leave family and jobs here and possibly not get back in.

This same bill says those here less than two years just have to leave and not come back. Many of those people would simply go farther underground and be exploited and mistreated more than they are now.

A compromise that has been suggested is to have all illegal immigrants go to certain border locations and apply for a six-year guest worker visa. After the six years are over, they would have to leave or start proceedings for citizenship. This one might work and hopefully by that time, the huge backlog in immigration cases would be taken care of and all these new cases could be worked on.

There were virtually no immigration laws here until 1891 when the Office of Immigration was created. Ellis Island opened in 1892 and processed more than 12 million immigrants before 1953. Certain “undesirables” were barred: convicts, prostitutes, lunatics, paupers, polygamists, the insane, those with contagious diseases, epileptics, Asians, illiterates, and children without parents. Ship captains were supposed to keep a log of immigrants entering other ports, but people who came from different directions usually just walked in.

Most people who showed up at the gates, got in. No one had to have family or a job waiting for them. Everyone who says “our grandparents came in legally, these people can do it too”, don’t realize how easy it was then.

It is time to change the immigration laws, this time making more sensible laws that people can live with. This, along with more border protection will slow the illegal immigration to a manageable number.

If we change immigration regulations so that people can legally come into this country with wait times of only a year instead of 10 or more, most people would do it legally. If the fees were only a few thousand dollars, most would pay that instead of paying smugglers and be cheated or die.

Many citizens are against amnesty and we all wish it had never gotten to this point, but I don’t see how the immigrants who are here illegally can be sent away. They should be allowed to stay and register and go through the criminal checks and approval process. Those who qualify should be put on the path to become permanent residents and citizens. These people will be the business owners, homeowners and voters of tomorrow.

If we make some changes and keep enforcing the “new” rules, we won’t find ourselves in a similar or worse mess 10 or 20 years from now.
About the Author

Donna Poisl is President of Live & Thrive Press and the author of “How to Live & Thrive in the U.S. / Como Vivir y Prosperar en Estados Unidos”. She wrote this reference guide to help immigrants learn our system and succeed in this country. Contact Donna at or Immigrants in USA Blog at





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