Veterans Court is a collaborative process that includes the prosecutor, defense counsel, Judge, the Department of Veteran Affairs and other community based support organizations. The goal of Veterans Court is to rehabilitate and restore veterans as active, contributing members of their community.
The Veterans Court program focuses on veterans who are currently in, or entering, the Criminal Justice System. The Court creates and supervises treatment plans to address the underlying causes of the veterans behavior and substance abuse issues. Issues commonly addressed by the treatment programs include:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Anger issues
- Domestic Violence
- Alcohol abuse
- Drug Abuse
By focusing on the root problems that contribute to involvement with the criminal justice system and providing specific rehabilitation programs, the Veterans Court provides an opportunity for the veteran to return to the community in a more advantageous and beneficial manner.
Each Veterans Court is going to be operated differently depending on the needs of the individual jurisdiction. Veterans with cases in jurisdictions without a Veterans Court will have to address their case within the court in that jurisdiction and will not be eligible for Veterans Court. Each Veterans Court establishes its own eligibility rules but, in general, a veteran must request to be placed in the Veterans Court program. The prosecutor, defense counsel and the Judge must all agree that Veterans Court is the appropriate forum for the management of the case. The veteran remains eligible for Veterans Court by making satisfactory progress in their court ordered treatment program and by complying with the other Veterans Court requirements. It is important to remember, no veteran has a “right” to have their case assigned to Veterans Court. Once in Veterans Court, the veteran must continuously “earn” the privilege of remaining in Veterans Court by complying with all the Court’s requirements.
Eligible veterans may participate in the court by voluntarily requesting their case be transferred to Veterans Court which meets as a separate court docket. The prosecutor and the defense counsel evaluate each case and must agree that the case is appropriate for Veterans Court. The case is then presented to the Judge for final approval. The Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Justice Outreach specialist then verifies the veterans eligibility for veteran’s benefits and conducts an initial assessment of the veteran’s treatment requirements. The veteran, if eligible for VA benefits, is then directed to the local VA medical facility for a more in-depth assessment. It is from this assessment the parties agree upon a treatment plan for presentation to the Judge. Upon approval of the plan by the Judge, the veteran begins the treatment programs called for in the plan.
Progress in the treatment program is closely monitored by the Court. Non-compliance with the treatment program can lead to sanctions which may include incarceration, community service, and reprimand by the Judge. In cases of continuous non-compliance, a veteran may be removed from Veterans Court. The favorable terms of any plea agreement may revoked and a sentence imposed.
Upon successful completion of the Veteran Court program, diversion eligible veterans may have their cases dismissed. Veterans on probation may have their probation successfully terminated.
Veterans in Veterans Court can expect to be subjected to more frequent reviews by the court to monitor the veteran’s progress in their treatment programs. Veterans making satisfactory progress will be recognized by the Court and offered words of encouragement. Veteran’s not making satisfactory may expect words of encouragement of an entirely different nature and sanctions may be imposed
Successful completion of the Veterans Court program will be marked by “graduation” from the program.