The Justice System: Another Trauma for Veterans?

Vol. 23 No. 3

By

John R. McQuaid, PhD, is the associate chief of Mental Health at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and a professor of clinical psychology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Joseph Bankman, the Ralph M. Parsons Professor of Law and Business at Stanford Law School, is completing a doctorate in clinical psychology at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology-Stanford University Consortium, and participating in a clinical training rotation at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

The war in Afghanistan is the longest conflict in the history of the United States, lasting from 2001 to the present; the Iraqi War lasted over eight years, from 2003 to 2011.

Over 2.5 million U.S. soldiers have served in these wars; almost 7,000 have died. More than 50,000 soldiers have suffered physical injuries, and a much larger number have suffered psychological injuries, most notably post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans in this last group often run afoul of the justice system. In this brief article, we discuss the link between war-related mental illness and crime and how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is trying to break that link through outreach and treatment. We also describe the spread of veterans treatment courts, which change the way our nation deals with veterans with serious mental health issues.

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