CACC – California Association of Collaborative Courts

Veterans Treatment Court Research


Veterans Courts

Resource Guide

The first veteran’s court opened in Buffalo, N.Y. in 2008. The veteran’s court model is based on drug treatment and/or mental health treatment courts. Substance abuse or mental health treatment is offered as an alternative to incarceration.  Typically, veteran mentors assist with the programs. An important issue that has to be addressed is the eligibility for veteran’s courts in terms of whether charges involving felonies or crimes of violence will be allowed. The inclusion of offenders charged with inter-family violence is also of grave concern to policy makers.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.


Justice for VetsVeterans Treatment Court Studies and Statistics

Justice For Vets maintains a comprehensive library of studies and publications from the nation’s leading agencies and experts on substance abuse, mental health and the intersection of veterans in the criminal justice system.


What is a Veterans Treatment Court?

Most veterans are strengthened by their military service, but the combat experience has unfortunately left a growing number of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.  One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment.  One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance abuse issue.  Research continues to draw a link between substance abuse and combat–related mental illness.  Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.The Veterans Treatment Court model requires regular court appearances (a bi-weekly minimum in the early phases of the program), as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and frequent and random testing for substance use (drug and/or alcohol).  Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment given their past experiences in the Armed Forces.  However, a few will struggle and it is exactly those veterans who need a Veterans Treatment Court program the most.  Without this structure, these veterans will re-offend and remain in the criminal justice system.  The Veterans Treatment Court is able to ensure they meet their obligations to themselves, the court, and their community.



Veterans Court

Veterans’ courts are hybrid drug and mental health courts that use the drug court model to serve veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. They promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated response that involves cooperation and collaboration with the traditional partners found in drug and mental health courts in addition of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, the Veterans’ Benefits Administration, and, in some programs, volunteer veteran mentors and veterans’ family support organizations.


Top 10 Things Your Combat Vet Wants You To Know

I’m a psychiatrist. Every day I listen to my combat veterans as they struggle to return to the “normal” world after having a deeply life-changing experience. I do everything I can to help them. Sometimes that can involve medications, but listening is key. Sometimes a combat veteran tells me things that they wish their families knew. They have asked me to write something for their families, from my unique position as soldier, wife, and physician. These are generalizations; not all veterans have these reactions, but they are the concerns most commonly shared with me.

 (Author’s note: obviously warriors can be female — like me — and family can be male, but for clarity’s sake I will write assuming a male soldier and female family.)


Veterans Treatment Court Studies and Statistics

Veterans Treatment Courts are responses to the growing trend of veterans appearing before the courts to face charges stemming from substance abuse or mental illness. Drug and Mental Health Courts have always served veteran populations. But research has shown that traditional services do not always adequately meet the needs of veterans. Most veterans are entitled to treatment through the VA. Veterans Treatment Courts help connect them with these benefits.

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Drug and Veterans Treatment Courts: Budget Restraint and More Evaluations of Effectiveness Needed

By David Muhlhausen, Ph.D.
July 20, 2011

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Veterans with PTSD in the Justice System

Tina Crenshaw, PhD, MLS

In recent years, programs have been developed to avoid unnecessary incarceration of Veterans who have deployed to war and subsequently developed mental health problems. The programs aim to assist Veterans who become involved in the justice system to get treatment for mental health problems that may exist. These programs are especially needed given the numbers of Veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Veterans Treatment Court

In 2008 the Center for Mental Health Service of the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) convened a conference with the goal of looking at ways to decrease the involvement of Veterans with the justice system and to provide them with mental health treatment. The conference was attended by representatives from law enforcement, corrections, the courts, community organizations, Federal agencies, and Veterans’ health and advocacy organizations. Out of this forum emerged recommendations for a Veterans Treatment Court (1).

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