On October 28, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act (H.R. 886), a bipartisan proposal offering new resources to state and local governments for veteran treatment courts. Sponsored by Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), the legislation would provide grants and technical assistance for state, local and tribal governments interested in starting or expanding veteran treatment court programs.
Following passage in the U.S. House, on November 5, a bipartisan group of five senators – including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) – introduced companion legislation (S. 2774) to the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act.
Important to counties, the funding and technical assistance resources outlined under the legislation would enable local justice systems to better address the veteran-specific issues that may contribute to an individual’s criminal offense, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a substance use disorder. The bill would also support veteran treatment court personnel, who are familiar with the VA, state VA systems and veteran service organizations in the community and can help connect justice-involved veterans with these resources.
Congress’ consideration of the legislation follows passage last year of the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act (P.L. 115-240), which requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to hire additional Veteran Justice Outreach (VJO) specialists and place these individuals in veteran-focused courts.
Going forward, the legislation is expected to move quickly in the U.S. Senate under unanimous consent after legislators in both chambers finalize FY 2020 spending bills.
For more information on veteran treatment courts, please see the following links:
- Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act (H.R. 886) (Legislative text)
- Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act (P.L. 115-240) (Legislative text)
- President signs bill promoting Veterans Justice Outreach specialists (NACo blog, September 25, 2018)