Veterans Incarcerated and in the Justice System Committee Update September/October 2017

Dominick Yezzo

The newly named Veterans Incarcerated and in the Justice System Committee was born on the floor of the 2017 VVA National Convention in New Orleans, LA. 

It was a loud delivery, but a healthy committee took shape in debate. The committee has a new name and a broader mission: to continue to serve veterans incarcerated and to serve veterans who face incarceration.

The wounds of war cause collateral damage that results in post-traumatic stress and, in some, traumatic brain injury. Both conditions create an inability to reason. Many Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD and TBI, which caused some of us to make bad decisions — decisions which resulted in arrest. Veteran Treatment Courts propose to determine whether the arrested veteran suffers from PTSD or TBI before it adjudicates the case. Veterans found to suffer from an inability to reason because of PTSD or TBI are diverted to special veteran courts that try to avoid incarceration. The offender is treated as a soldier rather than a perpetrator.

Had there been Veterans Treatment Courts when we returned home from Vietnam, hundreds of veterans in prison today would not have been there.

We returned home to a divided country. We did not know what we needed because we were young and inarticulate. The politicians and the Veterans Administration failed us. They could not understand our suffering. We were a generation of veterans left behind. Only our families and spouses who loved us bore the lasting burdens of our war.

Vietnam Veterans of America grew out of the turmoil in America. No one gave us anything. We developed a style, a look, an attitude uniquely our own. VVA, from its earliest days, took up the challenges of returning veterans: POW/MIA, Agent Orange, in-country illnesses, PTSD, drug and alcohol use, readjustment issues, and veterans incarcerated. We concentrated on the needs of the returning servicemember and became a powerful and savvy advocate. We will honor that mandate.

The Veterans Incarcerated and in the Justice System Committee will honor and encourage VVA chapters to become engaged with their brothers in municipal, state, and federal institutions; advocate for the formation of veteran treatment courts; and advocate for the review and repeal of mandatory forfeiture of a disabled incarcerated veterans benefits, Title 38 USC.

Dominick Yezzo, Chair

Source: The VVA Veteran


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