The California Veterans Legal Task Force
San Diego County is home to the largest concentration of military activity in the world, with 137,000 active duty military personnel, 250,000 veteran residents and the largest discharged Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) veteran population in the nation. About 38,000 veterans in the county have recent combat service, the highest concentration of any county in the U.S. and almost double the number residing in Los Angeles. Of that number, VA Research indicates that approximately 11,550 will suffer a diagnosable mental condition related to their service. Studies from the Bureau of Justice Administration can be used to predict that almost 5,800 of them will be incarcerated for criminal activity, 1,900 for felony crimes.
At present an average of 100 self-identified military veterans are booked into San Diego County Jail each week.
Our Statewide Mission
The California Veterans Legal Task Force is a non-profit corporation established under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)3 with a mission to assist California counties in establishing and sustaining veterans treatment courts and to conduct legal assistance clinics. These courts operate to encourage and provide treatment for veterans with diagnosed psychological conditions stemming from their military service. Veterans treatment courts operate in California under Penal Code Section 1170.9, which provides state courts the power to defer jail sentences for qualifying veterans convicted of a crime and to restore their civil rights upon succesful completion of their program, providing certain condition are found by the judge.
Our San Diego County Mission
The Veterans Legal Assistance and Referral Clinic (VLARC) is a cooperative partnership with the California Veterans Legal Task Force, the Department of Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, and local law students and paralegals. We form a collaborative team consisting of VA social workers and treatment providers, attorneys and legal professionals, and peer support ("Battle Buddies") to assist veterans receiving mental health treatment from the VA in successful aftercare programs. The activities include providing legal assistance and referrals to veterans who are receiving case management services through the Veterans Justice Outreach Program (VJOP) and the Vista Detention Facility's Veterans Moving Forward Module. We address unmet legal needs within our scope of practice and provide local law students with practice-orientated legal education opportunities. In providing these services, veterans will be able to focus on treatment and aftercare without the added stress of legal issues. In addition, students will gain valuable experience in providing legal assessments, experience with mental health issues, and knowledge about veterans' legal needs.
We are privileged to work with many volunteers including attorneys, paralegals, and Battle Buddies who all serve under the California Veterans Legal Task Force umbrella.