Veterans Court is one of several specialty courts in the state justice system. This specialized program addresses the underlying issues that affect justice-involved veterans. With nearly 800,000 veterans living in Pennsylvania, the courts wanted to address this population’s unique legal, financial, medical, and social needs.

Keep reading to learn more about Veterans Court in Pennsylvania, eligibility, and what to expect if accepted into the program.

What Makes Veterans Court Different?

Many veterans commit crimes because of substance abuse, addiction, mental illness, and trauma. Veterans Court identifies the reasons behind the criminal act focusing on treatment, rehabilitation, and education.

Veterans Court combines the elements of rehabilitation and responsibility with the camaraderie and structure that many veterans crave from their active-duty experience. Participants work with other veterans, who encourage and support their progress through the program.

How Veterans Court Works

Veterans Treatment Court is a voluntary alternative to traditional criminal penalties. The program includes mandatory court appearances, treatment sessions, and scheduled and random drug testing. It is a highly structured program that begins with identifying veterans from the moment they enter the criminal justice system.

Participants regularly appear before a judge. They are responsible for completing all tasks, courses, and treatment as determined by a team of mentors, counselors, and probation officers.

Program Services

Veterans Court is a carefully supervised program that includes:

  • Probation supervision
  • One-on-one judicial supervision
  • Assistance for substance abuse, medication monitoring, mental health, and other counseling
  • Random drug and alcohol testing
  • Vocational assistance
  • Housing assistance
  • Connections to social services for individuals and families
  • Peer mentoring by fellow veterans

Goals of Veterans Court

With support from the Veterans Administration and other agencies, participants can achieve:

  • Recovery from drug and alcohol abuse
  • Proper medical care
  • Housing and food security
  • Treatment for mental illness, including PTSD
  • Employment and financial independence
  • Enhanced self-esteem and personal growth

Veterans Court Phases

Assessment

Interested applicants must meet eligibility requirements. The prosecution notifies the Veterans Justice Outreach Program (VJOP). If the defendant is not a qualified candidate, they return to traditional court.

Phase 1 – Months 1-3

Participants have regular reviews and hearings with the Veterans Court Judge, mentors, and counselors at 30 to 90-day intervals.

Phase 2 – Months 4-7

Veterans attend hearings and reviews at 30–90-day intervals. They also must complete any additional program requirements, such as vocational training.

Phase 3 – Months 8-12

Participants appear in Veterans Court and check in with probation officers every 90 days. Although many complete the program in 12 months, others may take two years.

Graduation

Participants receive a certificate of completion and their criminal record expunged. Veterans Court recorded a 76% successful graduation rate in 2020.

Eligibility

Veterans Court is available to any veteran of America’s Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard).

Eligibility requirements include:

  • Victim’s consent (if applicable)
  • Proof of service in a combat theater of any Armed Forces
  • Diagnosis of PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), depression, substance abuse, or other psychological issues
  • Qualify for VA services
  • Qualifying misdemeanor or felony charges

Veterans charged with homicide or sex crimes are ineligible for Veterans Court.

Veterans Court Locations

Fifty-four Pennsylvania counties currently have Veterans Courts, including Chester County. Qualified veterans may also participate in Drug, DUI, or Mental Health Courts as an alternative to incarceration.

The first Veterans Court opened in Lackawanna County in November 2009.

Call Skinner Law Firm Today

We honor the bravery and service of America’s veterans. If you or a loved one is former military and facing criminal charges, the Skinner Law Firm wants to help. You could avoid imprisonment and get the assistance you need to turn your life around.

For a free consultation, call 610-436-1410 or reach out online.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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