What is Treatment Court?

What Is a Veterans Treatment Court?

A veterans treatment court is an intensive program requiring individuals to take responsibility for their actions while working toward breaking the cycle of drug abuse and criminal activity among veterans. Veterans who choose to take part in a treatment court are given a supportive environment to address their substance use and continue to build a life free of its destructive effects.

After leaving the service, veterans are more likely to experience problems, such as substance abuse, mental illness, suicidal thoughts, chronic pain, traumatic experiences, and homelessness. A rising number of veterans with substance use disorders and mental health concerns who were also in legal trouble prompted the creation of veteran court diversion programs.

Compared to the general population, veterans are more likely to have a substance use disorder; in fact, one out of every 10 of them has a problem with substance abuse. As concerning as those numbers are, they are considerably more so for veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Substance abuse affects one out of every six veterans of those conflicts.

Mental health disorders are more common in people who also struggle with substance abuse. People who suffer from one condition almost always also suffer from the other condition. These conditions frequently coincide with one another. Without access to appropriate treatment options, returning service members suffering from either of these disorders increase their likelihood of entering the criminal court system. This is the impetus for the establishment of veteran treatment courts in the first place. The veterans participating in this court program receive much-needed assistance, and the general public benefits from decreased criminal activity.

Veterans Treatment Court: How Does It Work?

Preliminary studies of veteran treatment courts have yielded good outcomes, with many participants lowering substance use and mental health symptoms and displaying increased functioning. There are several ways in which the administration of these special courts differs from the standard court system. One of the most significant is that participants in these courts are given the option of participating in tailored treatment programs that address substance use disorders and mental health concerns rather than being incarcerated.

Importantly, in this system, veterans are handled by a judge who is familiar with the particular issues veterans experience and backed up by resources like VA personnel, veteran volunteer mentors, and groups that provide services specifically for veterans. In addition to assisting veterans in accessing VA treatment services and community support programs, the VA also provides aid in gaining access to veterans court programs. Help with housing, finding a job, and getting medical treatment are all examples.

What Kind of Crimes Are Covered?

The jurisdiction of veterans treatment courts extends to lesser misdemeanor offenses that do not entail sexual or physical components. Veterans convicted of violent crimes may be required to spend jail time.

Veterans participating in a court program for veterans will have their progress regularly monitored by a judge. They may have to serve jail time or pay a fine if they do not pass a drug test or if they do not comply with a component of the treatment plan.

Why Have a Veterans Special Court?

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that a sizeable proportion of the veterans who came back from the Vietnam War had difficulty readjusting to life in the civilian world. A significant number of veterans went untreated for an extended length of time. Both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the local courts know that many returning veterans are also dealing with mental health issues. If these issues are not adequately treated, they can lead to more severe complications.

The first time that veterans commit a crime is often an early indicator that they have issues that have not been adequately handled. The veterans court provides a forum for the Department of Veterans Affairs, community service agencies, and local governments to work together to provide veterans with access to therapy instead of incarceration. Those who have sacrificed their time to serve their country deserve a second opportunity.

Do You Need VA Benefits for Treatment?

Anyone who meets the eligibility requirements can join a veterans treatment court, regardless of whether they are getting VA benefits. If you are qualified for VA benefits and services, however, the VJO staff can assist you in connecting with a veterans court. Pension and disability payments fall into this category. If you don’t qualify for VA benefits, we can help connect you with care from another provider.

Several sources, including private funds and health insurance, can cover the cost of addiction treatment. In addition, many states in the U.S. subsidize their rehabilitation facilities; thus, going to one of these facilities will not cost you a thing. You will need to fill out a form with your personal information if you would like to find out whether or not your Veterans Affairs benefits support addiction treatment. You can also find out whether or not your primary or secondary insurance coverage covers rehab for veterans.

Veterans Treatment Court Eligibility

States may have different requirements for court eligibility. In any case, the structure of veteran treatment courts is uniform. Service members charged with a crime can see if they are eligible to enter the court system. In that case, they will be offered a chance to finish a rehabilitation program rather than go to jail. A shorter sentence is another option.

Veterans Treatment Court Statistics and Effectiveness

The effectiveness of veterans treatment courts has been demonstrated even though these courts are still relatively new. The following are some other addiction statistics and figures concerning the efficacy of veterans treatment courts:

• Participants in veterans treatment courts had a greater likelihood of experiencing positive outcomes regarding their mental health, housing, social functioning, and employment.
• During the program, just 20% of the veterans who took part were given sanctions that involved serving time in jail.
• Compared to the 23% to 46% of non-veterans who were re-incarcerated during their time in regular court, only 14% of veterans were re-incarcerated during their time in veterans court.
• During their participation in treatment court, nearly 90% of veterans with co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were not arrested for any additional crimes.

One local study involving over 250 veterans revealed no statistically significant difference in recidivism rates between those who participated in VTC and those who participated in conventional court. However, more research showed that VTC graduates, as opposed to VTC dropouts, had a lower recidivism rate than standard court graduates over various periods.

According to a national study of over 22,000 VJO program participants, those who participated in VTC had significantly better housing and job outcomes than other VJO program participants who had contact with the criminal justice system. Despite this heightened oversight, VTC members still had a higher risk of being incarcerated again than the general population. After 12 months, participants in a small study of 86 veterans involved in VTCs reported better mental health, general functioning, and social connectedness. Because of their centrality to long-term rehabilitation and successful release from the criminal justice system, employment, housing, and public benefits must be included in the ongoing discussion about the efficacy of VTCs.

What Are the Typical Outcomes of a Veterans Court Hearing?

The vast majority of veterans’ healthcare needs are met by the VA’s system, while certain courts assist veterans who are not qualified for VA treatment. Medical professionals from the neighborhood are taking care of these vets.

A judge oversees veterans’ progress while they receive treatment. It is not necessary for veterans to leave the community. The court may impose sanctions, such as community service, jail time, fines, or relocation out of veterans treatment and back to a standard criminal court if the veteran fails to follow the program’s criteria, such as failing drug screens or disobeying court orders. According to studies, the judges in a treatment court are inspiring figures who give their clients constant moral support as they fight through the challenges of rehabilitation.

The veterans therapy court model mandates frequent (bi-weekly) court appearances, treatment session attendance, and random drug and alcohol testing. Veterans benefit from this controlled setting since it is similar to what they experienced in the military services. Some veterans, however, will have difficulty, and these individuals would benefit most from veterans treatment court. Without this framework, these veterans may commit new crimes and remain in the criminal court system. Veterans treatment court can monitor their compliance with legal and community responsibilities.

By providing early, consistent, and intensive judicially supervised treatment, veterans treatment courts improve participants’ chances of effective rehabilitation. Veterans treatment courts not only help troubled veterans but also act as a “one-stop-shop” for connecting them with resources, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, veteran-specific nonprofits, and peer mentors.

Veterans Treatment Courts and the American Legion

One of the essential things the American Legion does for veterans treatment courts is to help connect veterans with community resources. Veterans treatment courts can benefit from the American Legion’s mentors, service officers, and connections to veterans’ federal, state, and community resources.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a government agency that offers a variety of benefits to people who served in the United States Armed Forces. The U.S. Code Title 38 outlines the rules for receiving these benefits. When veterans apply for a program or benefit through their state’s veterans agency, they may also be eligible for services from other state agencies.

Many veterans who have served their country enter the criminal court system without realizing they are entitled to benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department. To help them file or appeal a claim, veterans frequently seek the advice of qualified American Legion service officers who can provide them with a network of peers for support and guidance.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Veterans Treatment Courts?

If veterans have struggled with substance abuse, mental illness, or both, they may wish to consider the benefits and drawbacks of a veterans treatment court. If you weigh the pros and cons, you’ll have a better idea of whether or not this is a program you want to participate in. The benefits are obvious. You’ll be able to avoid jail time and address any underlying issues by enrolling in a rehabilitation program. One potential challenge veterans may face is the need for them to be responsible for other vets. They’ll have to report in frequently and get tested for drugs. Another issue is that not all states offer treatment courts for veterans, even though over 40 do. If you need more information about veterans treatment courts and other resources for veterans, VeteransRehab.org can help.