Veterans Treatment Courts

Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) in the United States

Introduction

The serious challenges facing our veterans when they return home, particularly substance abuse and psychological health problems, often go untreated. Sadly, these challenges can sometimes lead to criminal or other destructive behaviors.

Veterans Treatment Courts seek to treat veterans suffering from a substance use and/or mental health disorder, while helping ensure public safety. These special courts combine rigorous treatment and personal accountability, with the goal of breaking the cycle of drug use and criminal behavior. Veterans Courts promote sobriety, recovery, and stability through a coordinated response involving the traditional partners found in drug courts and mental health courts, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare networks, the Veterans Benefits Administration, State Departments of Veterans Affairs, volunteer veteran mentors, and veterans family support organizations.

Veterans involved in the criminal justice system

Based upon the success of drug courts and a pronounced need to address challenges unique to our Nation’s veterans, Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) are being established in jurisdictions across the country. Veterans Treatment Courts utilize the same rigorous protocol of treatment and personal accountability to treat veterans suffering from a substance abuse and/or mental health disorder, while helping ensure public safety.

A Justice Department’s survey of prison inmates found that an estimated 60% of the 140,000 veterans in Federal and State prisons were struggling with a substance use disorder, while approximately 25% reported being under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense.(Office of Justice Programs/Bureau of Justice Statistics; Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 2004;  U.S. Department of Justice. May 2007).

According to another survey conducted by the Department of Defense, one in eight active duty military personnel are current users of illicit drugs. This is largely driven by prescription drug abuse, reported by one in nine service members—more than double the rate of the civilian population.

  • 1 in 8 active duty military personnel are current users of illicit drugs
  • $541.7 million dollars in Federal funding has been requested for veterans’ treatment programs in fiscal year 2012

Many of these issues can be connected to the trauma of combat and other service‐related experiences and, for this reason, require appropriate measures to address them.  Veterans Treatment Courts are designed to do just that, by meeting the particular needs of veterans involved in the criminal justice system.

Veterans Treatment Courts seek to treat veterans suffering from a substance abuse and/or mental health disorder, while helping ensure public safety.  These special courts combine rigorous treatment and personal accountability, with the goal of breaking the cycle of drug use and criminal behavior. (National Association of Drug Court Professionals, “Veterans Treatment Courts” 2010).

Veterans Treatment Courts are modeled after drug courts, which promote collaboration among
the judiciary, community corrections agencies, drug treatment providers, and other community
support groups.  Drug courts have a remarkable track record over the course of their 20‐year history. During times of difficult economic conditions for State and local governments, drug courts still prove to be a smart, cost‐effective investment that helps put offenders on the road to recovery, effectively reducing recidivism.

Veterans Courts promote sobriety, recovery, and stability through a coordinated response involving the traditional partners found in drug courts and mental health courts, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare networks, the Veterans Benefits Administration, State Departments of Veterans Affairs, volunteer veteran mentors, and veterans family support organizations. (National Association of Drug Court Professionals, “Veterans Treatment Courts” 2010).

Veterans Treatment Court Planning Initiative (VTCPI)

In an effort to replicate the success of the first Veterans Courts, an initiative has been launched to help more communities establish Veterans Courts.  The 2010 Veterans Treatment Court Planning Initiative (VTCPI) constitutes the first Veterans Treatment Court training program in the Nation.  The VTCPI curriculum is a collaborative effort of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI), and numerous Veterans Treatment Court professionals.

Ten jurisdictions have been awarded VTCPI grants.  The communities selected are in Orlando, Florida; Cincinnati, Ohio; Augusta, Georgia; San Antonio, Texas; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Kew Gardens, New York; Klamath Falls, Oregon; Elmira, New York; Batavia, New York; and San Diego, California.  The grant awards were based on a variety of factors, including the size of, and problems among, the applicants’ respective veteran populations.

Legislative Efforts

State legislatures:  A number of states have taken steps to promote Veterans Treatment Courts or veterans assistance within the state court system (National Association of Drug Court Professionals, “Veterans Treatment Courts” 2010):

  • Nevada and Texas have passed legislation calling for the statewide establishment of Veterans Treatment Courts.  Similar legislation has been introduced in Colorado, Illinois, and at least nine other states.
  • California, Minnesota, and New Hampshire have passed legislation that permits judges to order treatment, instead of prison, for veterans suffering from combat‐related mental health disorders

Veterans Treatment Courts: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Veterans Treatment Courts. This part provides references, in relation to Veterans Treatment Courts, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Veterans Treatment Courts by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Veterans Treatment Courts and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Veterans Treatment Courts or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Veterans Treatment Courts and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Veterans Treatment Courts. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Veterans Treatment Courts should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Veterans Treatment Courts when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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