Posted on Jan 18, 2015
SFC Jeff Gurchinoff
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There have been questions and comments posed suggesting Veterans (simply based on their veteran status) may get an unfair leniency in the court system with the implementation of Veterans Court programs.
I cannot speak to the history or origin of these Veteran Court programs other than to say they have been modeled after Drug and Mental health programs which incorporate outside counseling programs into the court probate system. These programs allow offenders to take advantage of counseling and rehabilitation while serving terms of probation.
The Veterans Court is NOT automatically inclusive. Simply because a "veteran" is in trouble they are in no way automatically adjudicated in veterans court rather than the civilian court system.
A significant and discriminating vetting process is used to determine eligibility based; 1st on the nature of the offense, 2nd on the possibility the civilian court system of punishment may not be particularly effective to mitigate further offenses, and 3rd contributing circumstances the veteran may be experiencing that were likely factors in the offense being committed.
Higher level crimes violent in nature, or veterans with repeat offenses such that the history of their crimes are too severe to warrant consideration are generally NOT allowed to participate in the Veterans Court programs.
The veterans court programs are designed to mitigate repeat offenses by taking into consideration, on a case by case basis, the veterans concerns ie. history of PTSD counseling, pain management, or other traumatizing events that are in the process of management or disposition with the VA. If the crimes are of a type that typically contribute to repeat offenses, (DUI, Drug Possession, Public intoxication, etc.) a judge may consider these to be gateway offenses to a future laundry list of other offenses. Based on the offense and what the specific veteran may be coping with a veteran may be referred to the Veterans Court System rather than the traditional civilian court system.
The veteran court adds to the civilian court probate system levels of oversight designed to assist the veteran in rehabilitation. Rather than reporting to a probation officer at pre-determined court ordered times Veterans can be further ordered to see their program Mentors, attend all VA counseling and group sessions as well as conduct (typically monthly) follow-up meetings with the judge imposing the sentencing.
If at any time any term of probation within the Veterans Court system is violated, probation is terminated and any suspended jail sentence is immediately imposed.
Yes.. some veterans receive help for an offense beyond what a civilian would receive in this program. Just like may civilians based on extraordinary circumstances have used mental health concerns or drug addictions to get differential treatment within the court system
No.... even if you are a veteran, if you commit a violent act you will not get a "get out of jail free" card through this program.
Check your state for more information... look up "Veterans Court Program State of _________" for information on how you can volunteer for a local veterans court or if you do not have one you may be able to start one in your county.

I am a volunteer and mentor in veterans court. As an old retired Army guy still live by the ideals of never leave a guy behind.

Help you buddies out people! Transitions are hard, harder for some than others.
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Responses: 4
CPL Rick Stasny
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Outstanding clarification Sergeant, I appreciate the time you put in to compile your information.
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Col Mark I.
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Like SFC Gurchinoff, I've been a volunteer mentor for nearly 2 years and just came back from completing a formal Veterans Treatment Court 'Bootcamp' program in Houston, TX -- sponsored by Justice for Veterans at the broader 2018 National Association of Drug Court Professionals annual conference.
So you know and others understand: Justice for Veterans and Veterans Treatment Courts do not supplant the military justice system for uniformed personnel subject to the UCMJ.
Veterans Treatment Court programs are expanding throughout the nation. They are aimed mostly at helping to rehabilitate Veterans who wind up in the CIVILIAN court systems with 'certain types' of offenses (which might vary from state to state and/or within municipal court jurisdictions).
Justice for Veterans is a subset of the broader National Association of Drug Court Professionals (which includes Drug Courts, DUI Courts and Veterans Treatment Courts) and Justice for Veterans focusses on taking veteran related issues into account and integrating VA programs into special 'Veteran Treatment' programs which are tailored to the individual (defendant). Once must generally provide a copy of their official DD-214 & be entitled to VA medical benefits to qualify (as well as meet any specific Veteran Treatment Court qualifications/requirements for the court of jurisdiction).
Those who complete the program requirements have an approximately 95% rate of not having a repeat offense within their first three (3) years of 'graduating' from their Veterans Treatment Court individually tailored program. That is a pretty commendable success rate (compared to non Veteran Treatment Courts). They are referred to as 'treatment courts' because the Veterans Treatment Court system actually seeks to rehabilitate individuals with tailored treatment programs to overcome underlying issues (things like the ability to cope with injuries and associated pain, PTSD / TBI, associated stressors of military separation, etc.,) that impact countless Veterans. Upon successfully completing the program, courts may have powers to dismiss the case or otherwise (conditionally) set the offense aside -- so the Veteran might recover from his/her offense, avoid negative consequences that might otherwise show up in standard background checks for employment, housing, etc., etc.
Any Veteran who gets in trouble in the civilian court systems might inquire about whether or not the local court municipality maintains a local Veterans Treatment Court system they might possibly be eligible to attend.
The Judge in my local Veterans Treatment Court is a Marine veteran. As a veteran, he really understands the military cultural mindsets and sets a very supportive climate for veterans who abide by their tailored treatment programs -- while holding all veterans accountable to fulfill their tailored treatment program requirements. He does not tolerate any lying or other BS when he senses it and holds veterans much more accountable to abide by the program requirements base upon circumstances involved in their tailored program. I've generally observed a three strikes and you're out sort of approach. It's incredibly rewarding to support individuals enrolled in the program, as a 'battle buddy' or 'wingman' with advice on how to navigate a myriad of program requirements and to lend an ear in supporting them to possibly complete the program. Not every Judge or court will operate the same as one another, but I believe the intrinsic rewards of serving as a mentor (to help others complete the program) are pretty much more/less the same. It's another way to serve those who've served and connect with other mentors & enjoy some more military based comraderie. I highly recommend volunteering at a local Veterans Treatment Court where ever you reside.
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SSgt Engineering
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Edited >1 y ago
Great post SFC Jeff Gurchinoff , working for the Department of Corrections in Maine, we need these programs. It isn't special treatment, it is simply owed to them if something can be fixed such as PTSD help or some type of drug treatment. There are programs out there for everyone. Diversion programs are on the rise and for the most part, it is a good thing in my opinion.

As for violent or sexual offenders, as you mentioned, these programs generally aren't tailored towards them. It isn't like we are trying to get serial killers to serve a week in jail because they are a veteran.
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