Letters to the Editor

A Manatee County Veterans Court would best serve troubled soldiers

As our brave servicemen and women return from battle, they face special challenges readjusting to society.

Often it is difficult at best; many are homeless, have PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other difficulties in adjusting to society.

One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment. One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance abuse issue.

At times, these brave men and women from the service have a run-in with law enforcement. Often they are put in the same criminal justice system as common thugs, thieves and other undesirables within our society. They deserve better.

It's time to establish a Veterans Court. We are in the process of hopefully installing such a court here in Manatee County.

The MCVCC, Manatee County Veterans Court Counsel, has been established. This model will require veterans to have regular court appearances (a biweekly minimum in the early phases of the program), as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and frequent and random testing for substance use (drug and/or alcohol).

Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment given their past experiences in the armed forces.

Mentoring will be a major part in the success of Veterans Court by assisting veterans with additional local and state resources. Volunteer veteran mentors also provide morale and motivational support.

Our new team members are not employed by the criminal justice system and normally would not be present at the courthouse. Consolidating justice-involved veterans onto a single docket permits these individuals to actively support those in need of their help. We are currently looking for funding.

"I am super proud of being an American, but we fail our veterans every day." -- Laurie Halse Anderson.

Glen Gibellina