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New Court Provides Hand Out To Veterans


allan
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New court provides hand out to Veterans

By Jeanette Steele

Sunday, February 6, 2011 at noon

Nelvin C. Cepeda / U-T /p>

The first veteran to appear in San Diego County's new court for those with emotional battlefield scars stands next to his lawyer, public defender Steven Binder.

Veterans with emotional scars from the battlefield have a new hand out to them when they break the law.

The San Diego County Veterans court processed its first two cases Friday, offering a former Marine and a former soldier a small haven in the judicial system.

The two Veterans, who both served in Iraq, will be required to stay in treatment programs and return to court for check-in with a judge every few weeks. Their reward: Fines stemming from their assault convictions will be put on hold and, in one case, eventually dismissed.

Veterans courts are on the rise nationally, and in California, in acknowledgment of the combat stress of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

San Diego’s program is the seventh in the state.

To qualify, a Veteran must have a service-related mental health problem, such as post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression or anxiety or be the victim of sexual abuse that occurred in the military.

After conviction, a sentencing judge has the option of redirecting an eligible person to Veterans court.

In the courtroom Friday, the two Veterans were introduced to people from various programs — the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Village of San Diego and volunteer veteran mentors — who are intended to help them navigate the system.

“You are not alone in the circumstances in which you find yourself,” San Diego Superior Court Judge Roger Krauel, a Vietnam veteran who served with Army special forces, told a defendant.

The San Diego program is a pilot project with room for 20 veterans. Typical cases are expected to be first-time offenders convicted of misdemeanors and felonies that allow probation, such as drunk driving and weapons possession.

Violent felonies, such as rape, arson, attempted murder, or any crimes involving great harm to a person, are not eligible.

If a Veteran drops out of the program, his or her probation may be revoked.

Buffalo, N.Y., is home to one of the first veterans courts, established in early 2008.

A spokesman for that program said 53 Veterans have graduated, which means they were clean of drugs and alcohol for a year. No program participants have been arrested again, though eight left without finishing.

In San Diego County, the VA is working with 353-Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who have criminal cases on their records. And, 251 people booked at county jail since January 2010, have identified themselves as Veterans, said Steven Binder, a county public defender who is part of the veterans court program

"Keep on, Keepin' on"

Dan Cedusky, Champaign IL "Colonel Dan"

See my web site at:

http://www.angelfire.com/il2/VeteranIssues/

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They can keep the apologies and parades for the Viet Nam troops.

Our legacy is better served by bringing attention to PTSD and organic brain injuries from trauma.

It's about friggin time.

sledge

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