Veterans leaving the services have serious problems to deal with. Unemployment, mental health issues, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse are issues rampant among veterans today. This sadly leads to many veterans getting into trouble with the law.
Because of this, many veterans end up having to turn to lawyers for help. In fact, unresolved legal issues comprise 50% of the top 10 unmet needs of veterans across the country.
They may simply need help from a DUI lawyer, but in more serious cases, they may need help from a criminal defense attorney. Criminal charges as well as warrants can really hurt veterans’ recovery. They get classified as Fugitive Felons if there is a charge or a warrant against them, then their VA or social security benefits are cancelled, leading even more trouble.
To help them, the government has taken steps to create a support system around legal issues veterans may face.
Many jurisdictions across the United States have created special courts called Veterans Treatment Courts. This courts try only veterans’ cases and show more flexibility towards the defendants.
Harsher punishments such as jail time are substituted with having the veteran participate in programs that focus on treating the underlying cause of the behavior that led to criminal misconduct.
There are currently more than 460 Veterans Treatment Courts in the country, and these are the fastest-growing specialty courts in America. The challenge is that access to these courts is limited. Added to that, many states only allow minor crimes and misdemeanors to be tried at these courts and no leniency is shown in more serious cases of violent crimes and felonies.
Veterans Justice Outreach
The Department of Veterans Affairs created a special program in 2015 called the Veterans Justice Outreach, whose focus is to provide direct outreach to veterans, where their criminal cases can be assessed and managed.
The staff of this agency mostly coordinate with their partners in the local justice system and also coordinate care for veterans that are in the Veterans Treatment Courts programs.
ABA Veterans Legal Services Initiative
The American Bar Association created the Veterans Legal Services Initiative in 2016-2017 to help veterans get the right kind of access to justice, and also receive the support that they, their families as well as their caregivers need.
They have created an online platform that connects veterans in need of legal help with attorneys who provide pro-bono legal services.
The even have a state-by-state directory of benefits for veterans. These benefits include scholarships and educational grants for veterans, exemptions or discounts on taxes and fees, the locations of Veterans Homes, where they can get home loans, employment opportunities and so on. There is even a list of states that provides veterans with cash bonuses for having served in the military.
Many legal firms have also created separate divisions to focus on veterans’ legal issues. They evaluate their clients’ conditions and try and identify the underlying problems that led to the criminal misconduct. Many try to create customized rehabilitation plans for their clients so that the root cause is addressed so that the crime is not repeated.
Organizations such as the Legal Health Veterans Initiative, which are funded by private firms and foundations, serve thousands of veterans across the country. The ABA also created ABA Home Front, another initiative focused on helping military families get legal aid.
While there is no comprehensive study to show whether these steps being taken by various agencies, individual studies have shown that these programs have had a relatively positive impact on veterans who participated – and completed – them. So, while there is some progress being made, more needs to be done to make the help being given to veterans more effective.