Military veterans who risk their lives and make it back home usually do not return unscathed. Some are fortunate to return with no physical scars, but many come back with emotional and mental health problems. When left untreated, the problems can affect the veteran, the veteran’s family members and society as a whole.
In recognition of these facts, Los Angeles County will launch Veterans Court today in Department 42 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. The Veterans Court will allow veterans who suffer from mental health problems stemming from U.S. military service to receive treatment as an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent felonies.
It is a joint venture among the Los Angeles Superior Court, District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Alternate Public Defender’s Office and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan will supervise. The program is modeled after the Orange County Veterans Court program and other similar programs around the country, and is the first of its kind in Los Angeles County.
Participation in this voluntary pilot program will be offered to veterans who have served in the U.S. military and suffer from mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, and/or substance abuse. Veterans Court will provide eligible defendants the opportunity to participate in mental health and substance abuse treatment programs specifically designed for veterans.
To be admitted into Veterans Court, the defendant must meet program guidelines, and all parties must agree to refer the veteran for further evaluation. The VA will perform an assessment and make a recommendation to a specific treatment program that best fits the needs of the veteran, and gives the veteran the best chance to successfully address the issues contributing to involvement in the criminal justice system.
There must be a conviction in the case before Judge Tynan makes the final sentencing decision. The participating veteran will then be ordered to complete the recommended treatment plan, and comply with any other terms and conditions of probation imposed by the court.
Judge Tynan will supervise and monitor the veteran’s progress in the program, and compliance with all court orders.