November 04, 2020

Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2019: Support for Justice Involved Veterans To Improve Health and Wellness Outcomes

By Stacey-Rae Simcox, Esq. and Morgan MacIsaac-Bykowski, J.D., Stetson University College of Law, Veterans Law Institute and Veterans Advocacy Clinic, Gulfport, FL

Introduction

In January 2020, the United States Congress passed the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2019, which was signed into law on August 8, 2020. For advocates who have been working in the veterans treatment court (VTC) arena for the past 12 years, this is a success in both acknowledging the importance of these programs and offering support and potential financial resources to these courts.  The purpose of VTCs is to provide rehabilitation to veterans of the United States military who enter the criminal justice system as defendants.  These VTCs come in various flavors and offer different programs to those enrolled depending on the resources of the court implementing the program.  VTCs rely on good working relationships among state prosecutors, public defenders, and a judge who will champion the docket and make it a priority.  In some courts, VTCs are an extra docket call added as an attempt to marshal the special resources available to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the shared common experience of the defendants.  In other courts, the VTCs are much more complex and involve mentors from the veterans’ community and community support providers.  Often, a VA employee, referred to as a Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) coordinator, is present to help the veteran participants unlock other benefits the VA has to offer. 

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