Life-Saving Veteran Treatment Courts Now Nationwide

America’s veterans dedicate their lives to our nation and its freedoms. These brave service men and women sacrifice so much and commit to protecting American values no matter the cost. As a 26 year veteran myself, I have seen first-hand how too many of my fellow vets return home from combat different than when they left.

Many veterans come back from war with invisible wounds that can result in addiction and behavioral manifestations due to the stressors and psychological impact of their service. Unfortunately, this trauma doesn’t just disappear when these heroes integrate into civilian life, leading some veterans to become entangled in the criminal justice system. As a country, we owe it to those who put service before self the chance to get treatment, recover and succeed.

Last month, President Trump took a step toward giving more veterans that chance by signing into law my legislation to expand veteran treatment courts across the nation. These courts allow veterans to seek treatment and find healing and accountability from fellow veterans while reconnecting with their military core values. I have seen the profound impact veteran courts have had on my fellow warriors in Arizona. Lives have been saved from the risk of suicide or overdose, and veterans are put back on track to contribute to society and meet their full potential.

Fred Rael, a Vietnam veteran who lives in Kingman, is one such warrior. Fred entered the veteran treatment court system in February 2018 after being convicted of a DUI following the death of his wife of 42 years. Within seven months, Fred not only graduated from the program, but was asked to return as a mentor to other veterans who are working through the program. He is now mentoring a second veteran through the program and attributes the court for changing his life.

Specifically, my Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2019 creates a new office within the Department of Justice, in coordination with the Department of Veterans Affairs, to provide grants, training, and assistance to state, local and tribal governments to strengthen and expand veteran treatment court programs nationwide.

Veteran treatment courts work in tandem with the traditional criminal justice system to help rehabilitate veterans who have committed non-violent misdemeanor crimes. Through these courts, veterans struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues enroll in recovery programs designed to set them on a path to success.

Arizona is no stranger to the immense impact veteran treatment courts have on veterans who are struggling to make the transition to civilian life. As home to nine treatment courts, our state has served as a model for the rest of the country. These courts have saved and turned veterans’ lives around in Arizona, and now they will be able to do the same for veterans across our nation.

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