Taking a New Approach with Veterans Suffering from PTSD
When veterans return from service or active deployment, it’s all too common for them to suffer serious consequences as they try to find some degree of normalcy again. From severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to coping through drugs, alcohol, or not at all, some veterans may find themselves accused of criminal acts that are directly related to their traumatic service experiences. Minnesota courts appreciate the complexities our men and women in service face once they return home and have taken the approach that often times their reasons for ending up in the criminal courts is better addressed by treating the underlying health issues.
Recently, Minnesota officials saw an opportunity to help our veterans with a new kind of rehabilitation program. After a pilot run in March 2019, Veterans Treatment Court or VTC is now a permanent program in parts of southwestern Minnesota. With at least seven different court locations, the VTC allows some arrested veterans to participate in a 12- to 18-month recovery program if they plead guilty to misdemeanor offenses, such as driving under the influence (DUI) or drug possession.
Veterans Treatment Court is not a means to bypass our justice system, and not every veteran can qualify for this program. Once admitted to a VTC program, veterans must also work with a judge-led team to fulfill strict program requirements, including weekly or daily appointments with therapists, addiction specialists, and counselors.
As one veteran shared with KSTP last year, “You’re not only answering to the judge, you're not only answering to law enforcement or whatnot but you're answering to your peers and that's huge.”
Should VTC Become the New Normal for Veterans?
Minnesota is not the only state to implement a Veterans Treatment Court program and see its positive impact on the lives of traumatized veterans. Last month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs posted an article on a similar program in Reno, Nevada, which saw a second successful graduation ceremony for nine veterans on June 16. As the public becomes more aware of the unique mental health and emotional problems affecting veterans, this awareness could soon translate to widespread policy changes – and even specialized veterans courts across the country.
At Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A., our criminal defense attorneys are supportive of these programs, having represented many accused veterans who needed specialized rehabilitation and more thoughtful consideration from our system. In allowing high-risk veterans to get the help they need, programs like the VTC could provide the kind of lifeline that creates meaningful change for our society and former service members. If you’re a veteran and you’ve been accused of a crime in Minnesota, we’re here to listen to your side of the story and provide the strong defense you deserve.
Contact us today at (612) 444-5020 to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.