July 8, 2010 By Wallin & Klarich

Tens of thousands of veterans have completed combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and almost inevitably suffer from some level of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Problems and symptoms include: sleeplessness, violent awakenings, flashbacks, nightmares, suicidal ideation, dissociation from events or reality, impotence, and other complications.

Unfortunately, those suffering from PTSD often self medicate by abusing alcohol and/or drugs. Military DUI charges, drug charges, domestic violence, and other acts of violence are common manifestations.

Research has shown that common symptoms of PTSD often do not express themselves for months or years after traumatic events. Although some symptoms may be present initially, problems intensify with time if untreated.

Veteran injuries may or may not be visible. Injuries to the head are referred to as traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Veterans with TBI frequently suffer from moderate to severe PTSD as well. Common disabilities associated with TBI include problems with cognition (thinking, memory, and reasoning), sensory processing (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), communication (expression and understanding), and behavior or mental health (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness). Moderate to severe TBI often impacts speech and language skills, and wounds may involve the jaw, tongue, vocal cords, or speech centers of the brain itself.

Orange County, California – Special Veterans Court

The idea for a special veteran’s court originated with Judge Robert Russell in Buffalo, New York in January 2008. He recognized that veteran’s disabilities were often leading them deeper into the justice system and they were often being incarcerated unjustly.

Orange County, California, Veterans Court Judge Wendy Lindley had a participant in one of her other programs who happened to be a veteran with PTSD, and he committed suicide.

That made her recognize that there needs to be more services and in-depth treatment for veterans, and that is what motivated her to help launch the Veterans Court in Orange County.

The goals of the Orange County Veterans Court are to protect the public, reduce participant contacts with the criminal justice system, reduce costs associated with criminal case processing and rearrest, and introduce participants to an ongoing process of recovery designed to help them become stable, employed and substance-free while continuing mental health care through community/peer counseling groups or the Veterans Administration.

Veterans Court in Orange County, which has been operating since November 2008, aims to provide an inter-agency, collaborative treatment strategy for veterans in the criminal justice system who suffer from PTSD, psychological or substance abuse problems as a result of having served in combat. Orange County Veterans Court participants will participate in an 18-month program with four phases: After participants enter a guilty plea, they receive a treatment plan, ongoing treatment, stabilizing and mentoring and a transition to graduation. Throughout the program, participants must have no positive drug or alcohol tests. They also must attend program activities and report regularly to the VA coordinator and probation officer.

Most participants in the program are recent veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans are monitored closely, and they are required to be employed, looking for work or be in college. To participate in the Orange County program, veterans must have served in combat and must live in Orange County. Those who have previous diagnoses for PTSD and TBI make a stronger case for participation.

It is critical to speak with an attorney familiar with Veterans Court eligibility. That attorney can advocate on your behalf in an effort to secure admittance into a program that provides treatment in lieu of incarcerations. Contact www.wklaw.com and we will help you through this time.

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