The Veterans' Court is for felony or misdemeanor combat and non-combat Veteran defendants who have been referred to a comprehensive and judicially monitored program of treatment and rehabilitation services. It represents a non-traditional approach to criminal offenders who have served both during peace and wartime. The Court attempts to address and help resolve some of the participants' underlying health and psychosocial problems.
Veterans' Court is built upon a unique partnership among the Judiciary, Veterans Health Care Administration, State Attorney, Public Defender, Probation (Felony and Misdemeanor), Clerk and Comptroller, Administrative Office of the Court, Sheriff, and other community partners from the criminal justice and treatment community. The program structures treatment intervention around the authority and personal involvement of a single Veterans' Court Judge. Veterans' Court is also dependent upon the creation of a non-adversarial courtroom atmosphere where the treatment team works to break the cycle of substance abuse and criminal behavior, and address mental and physical health issues. An environment with clear and certain rules is created, and each participant's compliance is within his or her own control.
Because of the unique problems and opportunities faced by veterans, treatment and rehabilitation strategies must be "reality-based." Veterans' Court recognizes that:
- Veterans are most receptive to successful interventions when they are in the crisis of arrest and incarceration, so intervention should be immediate.
- Preventing gaps in communication and ensuring offender accountability are of critical importance, so court supervision must be coordinated and comprehensive.
- Mental health issues combined with addiction can be a longstanding, debilitating condition, so treatment should be expected to be long term and comprehensive.
- Addiction seldom exists in isolation from other serious problems that undermine rehabilitation, so treatment must include integration of other available services and resources such as educational assessments, vocational assessments, training and job placement.
- Progressive sanctions and incentives must be integral to the Veterans Treatment Docket intervention strategy to address relapses and promote recovery.
A critical component of Veterans' Court is the Volunteer Mentor Program made up entirely of veteran volunteers. In that context, The Vietnam Veterans of America and The Stand Down House are providing training and coordination for this team of volunteers.