The Pennsylvania Veterans Justice Partnership is working to expand a Veterans Court program that started a little over a year ago. State Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery says it’s a problem-solving program, similar to Drug Treatment Court.
“This is not a new court per se. It’s new in that it addresses veterans’ needs because we in the court system feel that these men and women suffer directly as a result of their service to their nation, but there are other similar courts out there, and we believe strongly that these problem-solving courts do work.”
He says the judges hearing the cases are veterans themselves.
“They can get directly to the very visceral side of that veteran to bring back the pride that he or she felt in serving their nation to make sure that they have the discipline and the inherent pride to make a good faith effort to get themselves treated, to get themselves back with their families and to stop their behavior.”
He says volunteer mentors are also veterans.
“These veteran mentors are there to act as big brothers and big sisters to ensure that all of the veterans that are in the program respond to all of their meetings, their treatment programs, housing et cetera, and the beauty of the VA-state collaboration is that the Veterans Administration brings a lot of money to this program. They’re given all of the treatment that they need at no cost to the Philadelphia or Pennsylvania taxpayers.”
Justice McCaffery says Veterans Court is not a slap on the wrist, and in fact the men and women who qualify for it are held to a higher standard than other defendants. He says the program is operating only in Philadelphia, Allegheny and Lackawanna Counties now, but it’s coming soon to Montgomery, Bucks and Delaware Counties, and they need more volunteer mentors. He says it’s a good way give back and help other veterans get back on their feet.