The Role of the VA in the Veterans Court Movement

The Department of Veterans Affairs does not operate any treatment court or fund court operations, but the VA is nevertheless a critical player in the veterans treatment court movement. Within most veterans treatment courts, a Veterans Justice Outreach specialist (VJO) is provided by the VA to marshal VA resources in support of veterans treatment. For veterans meeting VA eligibility criteria, PTS and other military-related mental health conditions may be treated free of charge to the veteran, utilizing VA healthcare benefits earned by their service. The VJO serves as the lynchpin between the treatment court and the VA, thus insuring appropriate and seamless access to VA benefits and services.

Veterans treatment courts which have developed without the coordination and oversight of established veteran organizations such as the CVLTF, often rely exclusively on the VJO to gain specific insight about veterans and the veterans culture, veteran eligibility for treatment, veterans service providers, and to create a framework to collaborate with other stakeholders.

Treatment courts which have developed more organically, including the San Diego model, work with the VJO to streamline the treatment process. They also educate the public, meet with and educate state and local elected officials, possess the freedom to promote expanded veteran access to the treatment court, and to press for reforms to make the treatment court more responsive to veterans. Several of these efforts are outside the purview of the VA, which must follow strict guidelines established by Congress which preclude the VA from participating in significant areas, including providing any treatment in jails or prisons. The CVLTF and other grass-roots veterans treatment court coordinators also serve as a local voice for veterans issues in ways the VA, a massive federal agency, cannot.