“Today’s roundtable is intended to open up the broader thought process of how to help veterans fully integrate into society after service in the military,” said Chairman Filner. “I believe that we have a social responsibility to help those who have served our nation. We failed our veterans after their service in Vietnam and we cannot fail again. Veterans’ treatment courts provide an opportunity for a more humane response to those that bring the war home with them. We sent these kids to war – and war has affected their mental and psychological condition. Providing support for returning veterans is an obligation we owe to those who have sacrificed so much for our country.”
Currently, Veterans’ Treatment Courts operate in New York, Alaska, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, with other states working to establish similar programs. Highlights of the different courts include partnering veterans with mentors who are veterans, appointing public defenders who encourage active veteran participation in the court room, ensuring that veterans get the appointments they need for VA services, and addressing underlying problems like substance use, unemployment and homelessness. Judges relayed that their goal is to run a demanding program that requires personal responsibility and renewed discipline. Defendants are veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, Desert Storm, Vietnam, and even the Korean War. Participants noted that the costs of veterans’ courts are significantly lower than the costs of incarceration.
“These courts save money, but more importantly, they save lives,” said Chairman Filner. “Nearly two million veterans have returned from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Often, veterans struggle to adjust to the sudden loss of military camaraderie. Some return with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or other psychological wounds of war and may self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Others return with physical injuries that require prescription drugs that can lead to addiction. When veterans suffer from substance dependency disease, jobs are lost, marriages tested, and families suffer. Understandably, illegal actions can result in less than honorable discharges from the military – but then these veterans are prevented from accessing the VA services they so obviously need. I applaud the hard work and healing spirit of the experts here today. As veterans graduate from these programs, our grateful nation stands behind them and celebrates their bravery once again.”