President Trump signed legislation Sept. 17 that requires the secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire at least 50 additional Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) Specialists to work as part of justice teams in Veterans Treatment Courts.
The legislation, P.L. 115-240 (H.R. 2147), will enhance the role of the services that VJO Specialists provide to Veterans Treatment Courts, which are strongly supported by the ABA. These specialized courts offer structured intervention, treatment, and integrated services for veterans in the criminal justice system who struggle with the effects of trauma from their service and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), mental illness and/or drug addiction.
The goal of the VJO Specialists is to help veterans avoid unnecessary criminalization of mental illnesses and extended incarceration by ensuring that eligible, justice-involved veterans have timely access to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services. VJO Specialists provide direct outreach, assessment and case management for justice-involved veterans in local courts and jails and coordinate with local justice system partners. The additional VJO Specialists authorized under the new law will be placed on a priority basis at new Veterans Treatment Courts established after enactment of the bill and those that are not currently fully staffed.
“This legislation will keep more of our returning veterans, who would otherwise be sentenced to serve time, an opportunity for rehabilitation,” said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who introduced the legislation.