The Buncombe County Veterans Treatment Court was created in response to the growing number of veterans appearing on court dockets who were addicted to drugs and alcohol and/or suffering from mental impairment or trauma. By operating a Veterans Treatment Court, Buncombe County is at the forefront of a national movement to give justice-involved veterans the treatment, benefits, and services they have earned. According to Justice for Vets, there are now nearly 200 Veterans Treatment Court programs in the United States with hundreds more being planned.
Service in the United States military requires a level of dedication and sacrifice which few are willing to give. Although this service ingrains an ethos of duty, honor, and respect that is evident in millions of veterans who return home strengthened by their experience, some veterans struggle upon their return. The source of these struggles is as varied as the veterans themselves. America has been engaged in foreign wars for the past thirteen years and this has left an enduring impact upon our veterans. From the expected transitional issues when a combat veteran transitions from war-fighting to civilian life to a disabled veteran learning to compensate for his or her loss, these struggles lead many of our veterans to involvement with the criminal justice system and often to either homelessness and/or prison. By identifying justice-involved veterans early and connecting them with the VA’s mental health and substance abuse services when clinically appropriate, and benefits when eligible, Veterans Treatment Courts help stabilize veterans and aid in their transition to civilian lives before these unhealthy patterns spiral out of control.
Veterans Treatment Courts are uniquely able to accomplish this more than any other specialty court because of the coordination required between multiple federal and state agencies and the participation of key personnel from these agencies in and out of the courtroom. For example, the Veterans Health Administration’s Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist, or VJO, is present during the court docket with a computer able to access confidential medical records, make treatment appointments, and communicate this information to the court. This allows the Veterans Treatment Court to act as a net, picking up justice-involved veterans and putting them into treatment programs at the local VA Medical Center so they can get the necessary medical help and treatment they require for issues such as substance addiction, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and military sexual trauma. This also keeps many veterans out of County and State funded facilities, lowering the local tax burden. Veterans Service Organizations and the North Carolina Departments of Veterans Affairs assist veterans with additional local and state resources, while volunteer Veteran Mentors provide morale and motivational support. Consolidating justice-involved veterans onto a single docket permits these individuals to actively support those in need of their help. This consolidation also permits the Veterans Treatment Court to be run by a judge who better understands the issues that a veteran may be struggling with and is more familiar with the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefit Administration, North Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Service Organizations, volunteer Veteran Mentors, and other services for local veterans and how they all can assist veteran defendants.
The Buncombe County Veterans Treatment Court is the result of the hard work of the honorable Buncombe County Court Judges and the Clerk of Superior Court, the Office of the District Attorney, the Office of the Public Defender, representatives from the Charles George VA Medical Center, numerous Buncombe County veterans, Veteran Service Organizations, and veteran advocates.
Grimes Teich Anderson’s veterans law attorney, Tod M. Leaven, is honored to have served on the Buncombe County Veterans Treatment Court Steering Committee.”