Special Courts Give Veterans a Second Chance

It is often said that coming home from war can be more difficult than the war itself. While deployments are measured in months or years, reintegration is a lifelong event, often away from the battle buddies that watched their back. The pressure can be too great for some Veterans—and may lead to first time run-ins with the law.

That’s why Veterans Treatment Courts, tailored for Vets with first time felonies, have popped up all around the country. Judges offer leniency in exchange of a treatment plan, usually fulfilled at a VA facility.

The courts were highlighted in a recent segment on 60 Minutes, which traced the rise, fall, and rebirth of a Marine Veteran who found himself facing the justice system after a combat tour. The piece also delves into the story behind the bench, and how the treatment program is a tougher yet more promising option for Vets.

The system works for another Marine featured; he avoids jail by graduating from the program and is on his way toward another graduation—this time from college.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

39 Comments to “Special Courts Give Veterans a Second Chance”

  1. GEORGE WALSH says:

    WHY DIDNT THEY HAVE HELP FOR US KOREAN VETS.I WAS JUST CALLED A DRUNK AND A F**k UP. I KNEW THEIR WAS SOMETHING WRONG.THE DOCTORS AND THE COURTS HAD NO IDEA I WAS NOT MY SELF. MY SHRINK HAS TOLD ME THAT I DRANK BECAUSE IT WAS THE ONLY MEDICATION AVAIBLE AT THE TIME. MY LIFE WAS MISERABLE,RUINED MARRIAGE AND MANY MORE PROBLEMS

    • Roy Jeffery says:

      Thanks for your service buddy… I find myself lucky and sometimes even ashamed at myself to see how the men and women before me were treated when all they needed was the help to get through it all like I am afforded…. To all of you WW2, Korean, and Vietnam folks my sincerest thanks and just remember some of us think of how you guys were treated quite often, and I find myself extremely fortunate… TSgt (ret) Roy Jeffery
      Wounded Warrior

      • Eddie says:

        George Walsh, Sir it is your generation that payed for our present benefits! I am a Navy Vet of the early nineties, an I am very thankful for your yelling and hollering to our representatives, otherwise they would not have instituted the changes we are reaping now. Our Men an Women coming home from war now, are treated for illnesses you were not. They mistreated you and I am sorry for your pain an loss. Brother may you find peace an solace that your pain was not in vain, but rather paved the way for future Warriors to benefit from your pain and suffering. Once more your generation gave some and some gave all… God Bless you sir, and Thank you from one Vet to another!

      • I see where the Korean Vet is upset..He was in the most Forgotton War their was..But through the years us and society has learned quite a bit about War,and the Outcome..So glad after all the Fighting the Past Vets have done,that FINALLY\,results are coming along. And TSgt Jeffery, No need to feel bad..U and the rest are what us Nam Vets faught for..Never again shall our Veterans be forgotton,or Disrespected.Thank You,all the Active,and the Vets for your service to this gre********t Nation.. 69-70,USMC,Combat Wounded,100% Service Connected Veteran.Also Regional NE President,for The Purple Heart Riders,and a Ride Captian for The Pa Patriot Guard Riders..GOD BLESS The Vets,And GOD BLESS THE USA!

    • Jc says:

      I know what you mean , after all the pills that didnt work or made me sick booze is all i had but then got to where i was drinking alone and thats when ptsd symptoms got worse to point my base housing house was a bunkered up and papered off windows

  2. I can understand the veterans problems with getting back into society. My son took a management job,and did not think about having an audit ran when he acceted the job. After doing a great job for over a year the controling board said there was 35,000 dollars missing and since he was the manager he was resposible. He now has a felony against him and can not buy a job, even though he did not take any money. Just an oversight on hos part and mine, thinking everyone will treat a Vet with respect and dignity. God bless and we know where you are coming from.

    • Dan says:

      Your son still has a future, it will be harder and takes time, but encourage him to never give up. I faced similar circumstances in my own life, made some mistakes after serving four years in the USMC. In America redemption is possible, but the road is long and there are many obstacles.

      • It may be a long hard road, but all is not lost for your son. Like the above reply says tell him not to give up. All talk to him about getting it expunged or dropped to a misdemeanor. Life is hard, but having a felony can make it a little harder.

  3. Describe Felony…I have one Combat Veteran in my Group, maybe 70 years old who allegidly murdered another Vet and got 30 years. On the other hand, there is a Lady in our Group who spent 16 years in the Air Force, going to work at the Air TrafficTowers, who went to work high on various ocassions, never served in a combat zone and is now receiving 170 % disability. There are a lot of Vets waiting to get some minisquel amount to survive on. I never knew you could get 170% unless you are either quadraplgic or in a coma. She totalled her van while under the influence of meds.
    She’s still driving and is going to kill someone soon with her attitude. 170%???

    • roy says:

      I am a permanent 100percent service connected disabled veteran and now I have a heart desease caused secondary from my diabetes. I called my rep so he could get my heart service connected and also wanted to add a increase in another disability and he informed me that no matter how my service connected desease get worse there is no need to have them reopen the claim because 100percent is the most you can be awarded. Can someone tell me if this info is correct.

      • Jim says:

        Sir,
        Thank-you for your service to our country. I would recommend contacting your local Veteran Service Officer (VSO) to discuss this. While you may be rated at 100%, it is advisable to have your other conditions listed if you are service connected for them. If you were to pass away from a service connected disability your family may be eligible for benefits from the VA. Heart disease should be listed! Fill out VA form 526b to add your heart disease and any other health issues. Again please contact your local VSO for all of the details. Once again thank-you for your service to our country.

        • davcommander says:

          Jim, while you are right in advising to get all disabilities that have the potential to lead to death listed as a disability, it is not always required. If the cause of death or a contributing factor to the death is listed as a presumptive disability, such as ischemic heart disease for Viet Nam veterans, it would still be considered as a service connected death even if the veteran never filed for it. The spouse would be eligible for DIC just as if the veteran was rated for it. But every veteran should consider filing regardless. Contact your VSO for assistance.

      • Clay says:

        I am a DAV Service Officer. You should definitely apply for your heart condition secondary to your diabetes. The correct VA Form is 21-526b. List all the disabilities you want the VA to consider on this form, whether is a new disability, upgrade of existing disabilities, disabilities secondary to an existing disability, or disabilities that have been previously denied but you have new and relevant evidence. As Jim’s reply stated, you need to have ALL your disabilities on your VA record. Remember, you must be able to show service connection for each disability and that the disability currently exists.

        Secondly, a veteran can receive more than 100%. It is called Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). I cannot tell you what a VA Rating Specialist will do in a specific case, but there are provisions for SMC for secondary conditions to an already existing service-connected disability. You should contact a Veterans Service Officer, whether it is the DAV, American Legion, VFW, or many other Service Organizations. For a complete list of Service Organizations, go to http://www.va.gov/forms and enter 21-22 in the search box. The second page of VA Form 21-22 lists all the Service Organizations that are accredited to the VA.

      • davcommander says:

        Roy, You rep is uninformed about ratings and Jim has offered good advise. Here is the way it works. Once a person is rated 100% it is often advisable to reopen your claim due to there could be a chance the VA reduces an existing rating. Anybody could have disabilities that my warrant what is known as a special monthly compensation. For example you stated you have diabetes. If you also have ED that the VA has rated as secondary to the Diabetes you would receive a special monthly compensation K award which give and extra $97/month. Your heart disease, depending on its severity and the way your other disabilities are rated, you may be entitled to a SMC S award. Speak with your nearest VSO such as the DAV to advise you and help you with your claim.

      • Jc says:

        Im still learning the process of the disability process but im sure they will tell you to go to a doctor to link it to your service connected disibilities but after that they should be taking care of that seeing as its agrivated by service or made worse. Thats what i think will happen or way it should be. I to have diabetes and will be watching this post for info for the future

        • Clay says:

          For Jc: If you want to submit a claim to the VA, DON’T try to do it yourself. Go to a Service Officer at the DAV, American Legion, VFW, Military Order of the Purple Heart, or any of the Veterans Organizations accredited to the VA. Once you have your claim submitted, with all the evidence you have that your disability is service-connected and still exists, the VA may require you to have a Compensation and Pension exam.

          Once the C&P exam is done, the VA Rating Officer will be able to make one of three decisions: (1) Approve your claim and assign you a disability percentage for that claim; (2) Deny your claim and provide the reason or reasons why it has been denied; or (3) Request more information on which to make a decision. Please remember that if you go to a VA clinic or hospital to see a doctor for treatment, the doctor will not file a claim for you. If the reason you require treatment could be grounds for filing a claim for disability compensation, YOU must file the claim. The VA Rating officer can electronically read the notes the VA doctor made when you made your visit, but you need to tell the VA that you have been treated at a specific clinic or hospital, and the date or dates of the treatment.

          If you have diabetes and are a Vietnam veteran, there should be no problem in having a disability rating assigned, as diabetes is a presumptive disability caused by exposure to Agent Orange. The exact disability rating will depend upon how serious your diabetes is; disability ratings for diabetes can range from 10% to 100%.

    • joey says:

      Wow…how is that allowable… Yet here I am with something that’s killing me and I can’t even get my doctors to treat me.

  4. richard rife vet says:

    IM ASKING FOR MENTAL HELP FOR MY SON.HIS LAWER WONT HELP GET A BOND REDUCTION.HE HAS SO MANY FLASH BACKS AND IM WORRIED HE GOING TO DO SOMETHING.PLEASE HELP WITH INFO OR PLEASE WRITE HIM AND GIVE HIM INFO THAT HE CAN WRITE TO.OR MAYBE SOMEONE COULD GO SEE HM.HE WANTS TO BE EVULATED AND WANTS TO GO TO MENTAL FACULITY TO GET HELP.LAWER WONT EVEN DO THAT.PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN AND GOD BLESS OUR VETS.ADDRESS.(DETAINEE)RICHARD RIFE
    521 VERMONT
    QUINCY,IL

    • Kate Hoit says:

      Hi Richard,

      I’m sorry to hear about your son. Have you tried to contact the Veterans Crisis Line? Here is their number: 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. You can also check out their site: http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

    • Jc says:

      I live in Oklahoma we have attourneys for heroes 405-416-7000 they work pro bono and maybe have info for another vet friendly pro bono organization for vermont wont hurt to try

  5. As a Vietnam Era Vet, know the difficulties that many combat troops face when returning home. Am sooo happy that today we have more to offer the combat soldier to help him/her return home both physically and mentally/emotionally to their families and friends.

  6. CHRIS KLECKNER says:

    In May of ’70 I was charged with a felony when the police entered my apartment without a search warrant. They came in looking for a guy I had been in ‘Nam with by walking in after they knocked and his wife just swung the door open. To make a long story short, the charge was downgraded after the governors’ son got busted for the same offense, but the judge made the charge stick by telling me in a court of law the only reason is because I was a Viet Nam veteran. as a result of the illegal arrest, I lost my USAF security clearance, had to drop out of college to hire an attorney and have had a police record ever since that day, thank you.

  7. Lisa Gerhart says:

    Hi…I am writing to you praying our family can receive some help! My husband passed away on Sept.27th, suddenly.He struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. We don’t have insurance nor do we have a plot. His company paid for his funeral service, but we don’t have any place to lay him to rest. He was a US Veteran, so we contacted the VA to see if he could be buried in the VA National Cemetery, but I received a call yesterday from them stating that he does not qualify for a burial plot b/c he was not able to fulfill the part of the agreement the VA has where he would have had to serve 2 yrs,consecutive, he served more than 2 yrs, he was in the Air Force & Army. He was Honorably Discharged b/c he was stationed in CA when he was diagnosed with being an alcoholic and the state of CA recognized alcoholism as a disease.But, b/c he wasn’t able to serve 2 consecutive yrs due to his disease, he is not eligible to be buried in the VA Memorial Cemetery. My husband had a disease and it is not fair that he is having his benefits taken away from him b/c of his disease.
    We are sick with worry and frustration b/c I want to be able to bury my husband, his children want to be able to bury their father…we just want him to be laid to rest.
    I contacted the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office and explained the situation, a gentleman there informed me of the option for people with no financial means to purchase
    a plot… he said the state will take his body as “unclaimed” and cremate his remains. , My husband did NOT want to be cremated and our family wants to be able to Honor his wish.
    PLEASE, if it’s possible, would you happen to know what kind of help we can get , concerning this matter??? ANY HELP OF ANY KIND WILL BE SOOO DEEPLY & SINCERELY APPRECIATED.
    My home phone is (504)301-9688 ….you or your staff may contact me ANYTIME, DAY OR NIGHT. It is SOOO VERY DIFFICULT having to go through this while we are trying to cope with losing him,at the same time. I cannot sleep, I’m having panic attacks, …I really need someone to PLEASE HELP OUR FAMILY IN OUR TIME OF DESPERATE NEED!
    I sincerely appreciate your time and we are PRAYING for help of any kind.
    Thank You & God Bless,
    Lisa Gerhart & Family

  8. fordhoyt says:

    It seems to me that due to the most recent conflicts causing terrible losses and wounds, the previous, older vets, are getting pushed off at times. We have possible agent orange issues ( illnesses etc ) as in my case heart issues, dibetic issues, and rare mussle problems, my doctors won’t even try to check into, or at best half-heartedly.
    I am almost useless due to mussle and heart issues at 66 yrs can’t do much at all. I just feel more could be done in many cases like my own, and not just pushed aside because we are old, just my observation. thanks for listening.. ( old V N Vet )

    • Claudia says:

      I agree with you Fordhoyt,

      All veterans deserve some form of benefit in recognition of their service to this country. They should not have to wait until they die just to receive the benefit to be buried in a federal cemetery, but should be rewarded in some way while they are alive.

  9. Sgt. Serrano says:

    I got into a fight in NJ with a man who came into my sisters house(fact/proven) with the intent to hurt her(fact/proven). I just returned from Enduring Freedom and was so happy to be home with family but my life was forever changed that day! Not only did the court not let my 11 year Military History into the court procedings, they used it against me calling me a “dangerous weapon!” The court charged me with assault and I spent 5 years in prison for protecting my family(fact/proven). I love the military and this country but you dropped the ball when it came to me! And dropping the ball for one is dropping the ball for them all! I fight everyday to forget what happened and move on but its like a having the “Scarlet Letter” attached to your resume. I just received my Associates Degree and I am working on my Bacherlors@CSUSM. I will once again PROVE you should have helped protect me and not that person! Vets have proved their worth by sacrificing “THEIR” LIFE FOR “YOUR” FREEDOM! You should always be there for them!!! To all Vets U R Heroes and I would gladly give my life to further yours!!!

    • Claudia says:

      Sorry to hear this Sgt. Serrano,
      I myself was subjected to an injustice by the same government that I could have gotten killed to protect. One day God will right all injustices. Glad to hear you are going in a positive direction, and not allowing the bad that happened to you keep you from reaching your goals.

  10. kelly says:

    The veterans court is a great program that was started in Buffalo NY by Judge Robert Russell in 2008. The Buffalo team, along with Justice for Vets, has trained 95 courts across the country (including Houston). I wish 60 minutes would have recognized the Buffalo team and Justice for Vets for their continuing role in this nationwide success story.

    • Skip says:

      I agree, Kelly. While I know other Vets were not always treated fairly, this can help vets from different eras. I have an friend that is a Vietnam Vet going though the court right now for a felony DWI.

      • "Doc" Brandt says:

        Kelly, I worked with Matt Stiner to get the Tulsa court started (the 2nd one in the country). I represent the DAV on the court as one of the first of 4 service officers on any court. We are now 4 years old, still growing, still changing. But helping every vet get the help they deserve.

  11. August says:

    These “VETERAN COURTS” are FRONTS for the 12-Step religious AA/NA cult Treatment Industry….

  12. Gene Olson says:

    After being denied entrance to Canada for being too intoxicated, I found myself sitting in the Whatcom County Jail with a DUI. It was 1976, the Nation’s Bicentennial. Talking with my lawyer, the judge decided he couldn’t have a Vietnam Veteran sitting in his jail during the bicentennial. He shipped me down to the VA Medical Center, Tacoma, WA. It was here after 5 months that God healed my mind with lithium. I have never been the same since!

  13. E. H. Keys says:

    Does anyone out there know of a precise senator from anywhere who is serious about veterans. I have dealt with a few and they basically are dips. WWII and Korean vets have not been appreciated at all and have been dumped on by the society at large time and time again… in my experience we have had little to no voice… yet I keep hearing politicos like Murray of WA. always bragging of how much that they have done for vets… now the problem is coupled to age and still only a lot of wind… I for one of many have been dumped on (exept g.i. bill) repeatedly over the years… ie. veteran’s advantage in employment is nothing but crap pure and adulterated crap. where is preference for loans to start up a small business for example…recent immigrants seem to find all the bucks they need…. and there are thousands who get soc. sec. checks who did not earn a penny of it. any and all comments invited… would love a reference to a pro-veteran senator. anyone out there with a little political influence and not Leiberman. Biden or obama. ernie

  14. Whiskey Bravo Charlie says:

    I wish NC had this program when I slipped up! Anyone know if you can appeal a case to be re-heard in a Vet Court?

  15. edward says:

    not much good for congress to pass laws to help veterans , when the va doctors and boards lie and minipulate words to denie benefits, shoulder injury treated in service and va since, dr say it is not service connected but due to old age, flat feet and inserts in service va doctors, say i do c@p say i don.t 0% compensation. Desert storm veterans has been omitted from most new benefits. is this right.

  16. Gregory says:

    The state of kansas flat out refused this program for veteran in kansas city,kansas even across the state line in missouri they have veterans court,three years ago at out anual saftey stand down the local police an sherriff department barged in our stand down an started taking picture on a police camera of individuals they thought might have active warrants in order to arrest them on the spot,then some big wig from the capital in topeka in a suit we dont know who this gentalman was but he went totally off on them an told them it is disrespectful an shameful for them to try to use our standown to make there arrest,the state has refused legal aid period for veterans let along court,but missouri goes out of its way to help veterans in legal troubles i live in kansas city.

  17. Donna says:

    Thank you to all Vets for your service!
    Question: I’m a disabled vet and my husband is also a disabled vet. He has asbestos in both lungs from his Naval service along with many other health issues and currently in very poor health. When he passes, will the VA help with any burial and related expenses? I would also like to know if I will be entitled to any or part of his VA disability income. Thank you for any information related to the above.

  18. D. S. Parker says:

    I was in the cold-war( vietnam era), and we kept the USSR at bay.
    People died on both sides, but no one cares. I have been fighting for 39 years for my disability. I was told that now after all this time they may give me something.

    This was a war, people were killed, wounded, and went home never the same.
    No thanks, just a go to hell and keep your mouth shut, or go to jail and never be seen again.
    This is the forgotton WAR, and what people do not get is that Korea, Vietnam, and the Berlin wall are part of the cold war. And do forget the CIA, and others.
    There was nothing for those that were on Submarines, CIA/US Air Force (Gary Powers),
    The ones who up close to the Russians.