The Service Connection – Fall 2018

Veteran’s Law Newsletter 

The Service Connection- Fall 2018


Giving Thanks

By John Stevens Berry, Sr.

Summer came to a quick conclusion and autumn has settled in. The English poet John Keats described autumn as the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” Just enjoying nature and the change of seasons can be healing and therapeutic. It is no coincidence that Thanksgiving comes during this time of year. We have much to be thankful for, including the fellowship and friendship of our fellow Veterans. The sacrifices of spring and summer are what allow us to enjoy a bountiful autumn. Thank you, brothers and sisters!

Attorney Spotlight: Kathleen S. Pallesen, Erik Fern, Hannah Carroll-Altman




Berry Law Firm is proud to announce the addition of three attorneys in the last quarter, Kathleen S. Pallesen, Erik Fern and Hannah Carroll-Altman.

Kathleen Pallesen is passionate attorney who finds fulfillment by helping people in times of legal crisis. With an extensive legal background in juvenile and guardianship issues, Kathleen has found that her greatest strength revolves around her ability to help those in need. Kathleen started her legal career in Washington D.C. as a legislative aide to Congressman Peter Hoagland. Kathleen now brings her wide array of experience to help clients with many civil problems at Berry Law, including probate, guardianship, civil litigation, and elder law.

Erik Fern represents people who have found themselves in situations that can feel overwhelming, using his experience to help navigate them to a solution. He believes that sound preparedness, careful thought, and diligence are the most important assets to being successful not only in the legal field, but also life in general. Erik has served as the Attorney Coach for the Luther College Mock Trial from 2012 to 2014. Erik will practice in the areas of personal injuries, civil rights, civil litigation, and appeals at Berry Law.

Hannah Carroll-Altman fights for the rights and liberty of individuals accused by the government. Her primary practice area is criminal defense, and she focuses on sex crimes, interstate drug stops and drug crimes, DUI/DWI, criminal appeals, and post-conviction remedies. Hannah practices criminal defense at both the state and federal levels.

Art Therapy for PTSD and TBI

By Rory Berry, Navy Veteran

I recently had the pleasure to meet Melissa Walker, who uses art therapy to work with victims of TBI and PTSD at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. I was fascinated to hear how she was able to work with Veterans to provide healing for the invisible wounds of war in a way that pills and traditional counseling cannot.

In her TED talk, she tells the audience how she uses art-making as a psychotherapeutic intervention, and has seen amazing results for patients. One of her techniques is to guide the Veterans through mask-making, allowing the servicemember to create a physical manifestation of their trauma so that they can more easily confront and understand it. From her therapy, servicemembers have crafted over 1,000 masks, and many have seen remarkable improvements in their mental health.

The use of art for therapeutic purposes is not a new concept, but the systematic application of proven techniques is a great development in expanding treatment options for Veterans with TBI and PTSD. The military’s willingness to integrate alternative therapies is encouraging and shows a willingness to go beyond the minimum effort to help rehabilitate disabled Veterans.

Many Veterans turn to art on their own, or through encouragement. We have been fortunate at our Firm to receive stories, poems, and works of art from clients who are proud of their work and want to share it with others. We regularly publish submissions in our newsletter and take great honor in the opportunity to be part of the healing process by being an outlet for creative expression.

Beyond standard visual art, there have been fascinating forays into other outlets for creative expression, including setting up a garden at the Los Angeles VA facility. At the same VA, they have experimented with dance lessons, yoga, meditation, creative writing, and silk-screening, trying to reach individual patients in a way that is therapeutic for them.

In an ideal scenario, there would be a course of treatment that was effective for all Veterans with PTSD. Instead, because each trauma experience is unique, the means of treating it need to be unique as well. Art therapy has shown great promise, but even if it achieves widescale adoption, there is still the question of what kind of art will work for which individuals. A Veteran who responds well to mask making may not find any relief in creative writing; one servicemember may find gardening therapeutic and see the promise of new life as refreshing, while another may find it too reminiscent of the fragility of life.

Each instance of PTSD and TBI is unique, and the courses of treatment are forever improving. For now, it is reassuring that the VA is taking art seriously as a means of rehabilitation.

How often does the VA reevaluate VA disability ratings?

If you receive disability benefits from the VA, you know how important the payments you receive are. What some Veterans may not know, however, is that the VA will periodically request to reexamine you so that they can reevaluate your disability rating. This request may seem harmless at first, but it can have a significant impact on the benefits you receive.Clock

At Berry Law Firm, we believe Veterans who have risked their lives for their country should continue to receive the benefits they’ve been promised to help them deal with their disabilities. With that in mind, we want to help you understand how reevaluation works so that you don’t get blindsided and lose your disability payments.

You can expect the VA to reach out to you and ask for a reexamination at two different points in time:

  • The first will be six months after your service ends
  • The second is somewhat less predictable and will fall sometime in the range of three to five years after your service ends

At each of these points, the VA will reevaluate your disability rating. Any changes to the rating could affect the amount you receive in disability payments going forward. If the VA decides to lower your disability rating, you could receive less in benefits. If the VA raises your rating, you could receive more. Whatever change there might be in your rating, if you disagree, you have the right to appeal.

If something happens outside of the scheduled time-frame and your disability worsens, you may want to request a reevaluation yourself. You have the right to do so.

If the VA decides that your condition warrants a higher disability rating, you could see a much-needed increase in your benefits. However, there is also a risk involved, as the VA might instead decide to lower your rating and therefore your payments.

Consulting with an experienced Veteran law attorney from Berry Law can give you a better idea of whether you should request a reevaluation.

The VA is a huge, complex bureaucracy. Navigating it is not something they taught you in Basic Training. It can take years of fighting to truly understand how the VA works and how to make it work for you.

An experienced Veteran law attorney will have just that knowledge. If you are seeking to appeal your new disability rating, or if you want to better understand how to handle the reevaluation process from the beginning, Berry Law Firm can help.

A reduction in the benefits you receive can be challenging on many levels. In addition to depriving you of income you rely on, it can feel like an insult from the department that is supposed to take care of you after you sacrificed so much for your country.

You do not have to fight this battle alone. If you would like more information on how Berry Law Firm can help, please reach out to us at any time.

John Stevens Berry, Sr., enshrined in NMMI Hall of Fame

NMMI Hall of Fame Award

Berry Law is excited to announce that founder John Stevens Berry, Sr., was inducted into the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) Hall of Fame on October 19, 2018. His years of service and accomplishments in the legal field earned him a place in the category of Eminence in a Chosen Field of Endeavor. Berry was recognized alongside five other NMMI graduates in the 2018 Hall of Fame induction ceremony held at The Liberty Social Club in Roswell, NM.

Berry was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Eminence, a category reserved for alumni who are nationally renowned and have distinguished themselves with noteworthy accomplishments in their profession or field. Only those whose accomplishments go far beyond common business success can be considered under this category. Eminence honorees are commonly household names and must meet strong standards of success, ethical requirements, and be widely recognized.

John Stevens Berry, Sr., was nominated for the first time in 2018 and was a unanimous selection by the NMMI Hall of Fame committee for his distinguished law career, professional achievements, and community engagement. He first gained national prominence for his role as defense counsel in Vietnam where he argued successfully on behalf of US Special Forces in the highly publicized “Green Beret Affair.” Returning to civilian life, he tried several high-profile cases in New York while working for the legendary Henry Rothblatt. John Stevens Berry, Sr., has fought for his clients in court in 24 states, in administrative proceedings in all 50 states, and in two foreign countries as well. His federal recognition includes the FBI Award for Service in the Public Interest.

Berry attended high school at New Mexico Military Institute, graduating in 1956. He was commissioned in the Infantry and later earned his J.D. from Northwestern University.

Berry Law Sponsors National Airborne Day

Readers’ Photos

Submitted by Angela Mannsfield

Submitted by Gary Malcolm

Submitted by Gary Malcolm

Submitted by Greg Morris






Readers’ submissions

Dark Reflections

By Shabaka Tecumseh

Bright lights,
Whiffs of repugnant smells
Fills my nose
Smells you never forget
burning forest, Willie Pete
Scent of war
Who knows what laid
Beneath destruction?
Youthful laughs as
shells weighed
Light in your arms
yet years done passed
Dreams haunt thoughts
Of terror reigned on those
Who now sell us wares.


By Angela Mannsfield

Heaven gates have opened and taken someone dear
Tears feel like rain, and blooms remind of life
Hearts of gold, outdoor strolls, jokes and laughter aren’t ever to grow old
God’s nature to protect, angels watch, for it was too soon
Love is grand, smiles are warm, memories last forever, and God has a new angel