The Veterans Court Act drafting committee had its second meeting in Washington, DC on February 19-20, 2016. This second meeting was extremely productive and helped the Committee to focus the purpose and language of the Act for its first reading this summer in Stowe, Vermont.
The Committee, with help from the ULC staff, was able to locate and invite extremely knowledgeable and helpful observers to attend the Washington, DC meeting. Observers from Justice For Vets, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the National Center for State Courts, the American Bar Association, the National Association of Black Veterans, and AMVETS added immensely to the conversation about how veterans and active duty servicemembers suffering from mental health or substance use disorders interact with the criminal justice system. The Committee decided at this most recent meeting that the Act should focus on a treatment court model, similar to those found in the drug treatment court and mental health court models. Veterans courts across the country have flourished and continue to grow, often in the absence of state legislation on the scope and breadth of these courts. This ad hoc creation of veterans courts has led to wide variation on which veterans are qualified to participate in these courts and how the veterans’ participation is managed. The growth of these courts is in large part due to the literature that affirms the success of the treatment court model and a respect for the service that these veterans have given our nation.
In this meeting, the Committee was able to offer more precise language in the Act to explain the movement of veterans through the court process, while being careful to respect each court’s autonomy in the creation of these programs. The Committee also robustly supported the addition of special consideration for treatment of defendants and victims of domestic violence. The process of refining that language and preparing the Act for Stowe will last throughout the Spring.
Harry Tindall, Chair, Drafting Committee on a Model Veterans Court Act