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A court for our veterans

By Isabel A. Suárez

My son has recently separated from the U.S. Army. As an infantryman, he served one tour in Afghanistan and three in Iraq. He does not like to talk about his time overseas, but he has been deeply affected. I am afraid he suffers from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Recently, he has gotten into some legal troubles. He was caught speeding, driving under the influence and was charged with disorderly conduct. Before leaving for war, he was a very loving and law-abiding man. I can’t help but think his actions now are a result of what he endured in combat. I recently read how some states have created special courts for veterans. Does Dayton have a Veteran’s Court and what are its benefits?
Thank you,
A Loving Mother

Dear Loving Mother,
Let me start off by saying thank you to both you and your son. He sacrificed much to serve his country and you have sacrificed to serve him. If you feel your son needs help with PTSD, or any other military related issues, please seek help at the nearest VA Medical Center. I personally know that the facilities at the Dayton VA are great and the staff is top of the line.
As a result of our country engaging in nearly 10 years of war in Afghanistan and eight years in Iraq, many of our sons and daughters have been deployed innocent and loving, and have returned hurt and angry. Often, these soldiers return home and get into significant legal troubles. Although the reasons vary, many times this dramatic change in behavior is often a result of PTSD or combat-related stressors. As is the case with your son, these soldiers see, hear, live and experience extremely stressful situations overseas.
In response to this ever-growing population of traumatized soldiers, Buffalo, New York created the first Veteran’s Treatment Court. This Veteran’s Court is a specialized docket, designed to assist veterans who have gotten into legal trouble. The court recognized that soldiers are often victims of mental health issues, and seeks to support and encourage them while ensuring they receive necessary treatment.
If he qualifies, the court gives the veteran who has been charged with a crime the option to enter the Veteran’s Court program. Admission into this program requires them to agree to intensive probation. They must work closely with the VA Medical Center, receive care for their specialized needs and abide by all the Veteran’s Court requirements. After successful completion of the program, the veteran may be eligible to have his charges dismissed, reduced and/or fines reduced. However, and I stress this, they must abide by all the court’s requirements and follow the VA program, whether it is physical and/or mental treatment.
According to the 2000 census, Ohio has the sixth largest veteran population in the U.S. Unfortunately, there are only two Veteran’s Courts currently in existence in the state. There is a dedicated group of legal and multi-disciplinary professionals, however, who work diligently to bring a Veteran’s Court to the Miami Valley. The idea behind this court is very similar to Buffalo’s and other Veteran’s Courts in the U.S.
Upon entry into the Veteran’s Court, your son would be required to report to the Veteran’s Court according to his custom-made program, and comply with the VA Medical Center’s protocol. He must abide by any and all treatment recommended. Upon completion of the program, he would be eligible to benefit from a wide range of incentives, including the dismissal or reduction of criminal charges and/or fines and court costs.
Since the Veteran’s Court docket is in the early stages of development, I can speak only generally. I can assure you, however, that the dedicated group of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and probation officers, in cooperation with VA personnel, are working hard to ensure your son gets the assistance he needs. With their effort and commitment, we will soon have a docket to address the issues these veteran men and women face in their return to our community.
¡Buena Suerta!

Legal disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and informative purposes only, and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk and are advised to seek an attorney if legal consultation is needed. The accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed as laws are subject to change. Neither the author, the Dayton City Paper, nor any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.

Isabel Suarez is a Cuban-born American who has been practicing law since 1984. Her diverse multicultural and multilingual practice Suarez & Carlin in Old North Dayton especially serves the regions working poor. Isabel is also a board member of and volunteer for the Ohio Intervention Program. You can reach Isabel by email at isabel@suarezcarlin.com or by calling her office located at 765 Troy St. in Dayton at (937) 258-1800.

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