Sending Office: Honorable Mike Coffman
While many veterans successfully readjust and transition back to civilian life after their military service, unfortunately, some do not. Too often, those who do not successfully adjust are caught up in the criminal justice system – often due to undiagnosed
or untreated issues these veterans face related to their military service. These veterans have served our nation and I believe that whenever possible, we as a nation should find ways to help them rehabilitate themselves as they navigate the criminal justice
system. This is why I invite you to cosponsor H.R. 2147, the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act.
This bill authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to hire 50 additional Veteran Justice Outreach Specialists to work with criminal justice-involved veterans in the Veteran Treatment Courts (VTCs). Additionally, the bill requires
the VA Secretary to identify an offset and requires the VA and Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report periodically to Congress on the implementation of this act.
The Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act builds upon an existing and successful program that the VA created in 2009. The Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) program operates through VA Medical Centers in every state and provides timely services
to veterans involved with the criminal justice system. The program relies on VJO Specialists, who are licensed social workers. These Specialists link veterans to available VA services and treatment, and monitor the veteran’s progress in the VTCs. The VTCs
are specialty, diversionary courts dedicated to veteran offenders where they are diverted from the regular criminal justice process to address their underlying issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. This successful model avoids
the unnecessary incarceration of veterans with mental illness, assesses their health and social needs, and then helps develop a rehabilitation treatment program specific to the veteran’s needs.
Currently, there are more than 260 VJO Specialists in 167 VA Medical Centers nationwide. However, the VA currently lacks a sufficient number of VJO Specialists to meet the demand for their services. This means numerous veterans cannot avail themselves of
the opportunity to enter the VTCs and succeed in rehabilitating themselves. Additionally, without more VJO Specialists, more VTCs cannot be established and the existing VTCs are limited in their effectiveness. My bill will help the VA to better meet the demands
of the program and allow it to serve many more veterans. Our veterans have served us – now let us serve those veterans who need our help.
For more information or to cosponsor H.R. 2147, the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act, please contact Katharine Denby (Katharine.Denby@mail.house.gov) in Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-CO) office.
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