Reintroduces Bipartisan Bill in the 116th Congress With Overwhelming Support

Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL) was joined by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) in reintroducing the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act in the 116th Congress. This bipartisan bill would enhance state and local veteran treatment court programs that support the unique needs of veterans who find themselves in the criminal justice system.

The legislation was introduced with the support of more than 80 members of Congress from both parties. It also has received the support of American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, National Military & Veterans Alliance, American Logistics Association, American Military Retirees Association, American Military Society, American and Navy Union of the USA, American Retiree Association, Association of the US Navy, Military Order of Foreign Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Military Order of World Wars, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, The Flag and General Officers Network, The Independence Fund, The Retired Enlisted Association, Society of Military Widows, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Catholic War Veterans.

"I have seen firsthand the life-changing impact veteran treatment court programs can have, with Pinellas fortunate to have one in our backyard. Unfortunately, veterans in too many communities do not have access to the same support. Our bill will help expand and bolster such programs nationwide – providing the counseling, care, and support our veterans need to help transition into civilian life more successfully," said Congressman Crist. "With overwhelming support from members of Congress and veterans organizations, I hope we can quickly move this legislation forward to better support our veterans. It's what they have earned, and what they deserve."

"It is incumbent on Congress to make sure our veterans receive the best possible treatment when they return home from serving our country," said Congresswoman Stefanik. "Unfortunately, due to the stressors and psychological impact of their service, some veterans become entangled in the criminal justice system. This bill would give non-violent offenders a chance to rehabilitate themselves through a special program tailored to the unique needs of veterans. I’m proud to support our veterans in every way that I possibly can."

"The National Military and Veterans Alliance supported the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act during the 115th Congress and we are pleased to see the bill's re-introduction in the 116th.  These courts provide a valuable and needed resource for veterans who are charged with a non-violent crime attributable to their service and allows them to get the help they need while avoiding jail time.  Establishing a point of contact at the Department of Justice to work with the VA in the implementation of a program that will provide grants, training, and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal governments will enhance the VTC formation process and encourage the growth of VTC’s in areas where they do not exist.  NMVA looks forward to working to pass this bill," said Ted Painter, Co-Director of NMVA and Executive Director of the Armed Forces Retirees Association.

Background on the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act:
After serving our country, too many veterans are experiencing mental health issues, substance abuse, and homelessness, which can often land them in the criminal justice system. Veteran treatment courts provide the counseling, care, and support veterans need to help address these challenges and more successfully transition to civilian life.

The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act establishes a program within the Department of Justice, in coordination with the VA, to provide grants, training, and technical assistance to help state, local, and tribal governments develop and maintain veteran treatment courts. Currently, these programs are supported by dedicated individuals in law enforcement, the judicial system, the legal community, VA officials, Veterans Service Organizations, and other community organizations.

The bill would provide federal resources for the establishment of new treatment courts. The first veterans treatment court was established in Buffalo, New York in 2008. Since that time, additional courts have been successfully adopted in state and local courts throughout Florida and the nation.  In 2013, Florida's 6th Judicial Circuit Court created a veterans unit to address the unique needs of those in Pinellas and Pasco counties, home to over 130,000 veterans.

Joining Congressman Crist and Congresswoman Stefanik in introducing the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act are U.S. Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Colin Allred (D-TX), James Baird (R-IN), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Ken Calvert (R-CA), André Carson (D-IN), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Paul Cook (R-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Val Demings (D-FL), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Neal Dunn (R-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Jennifer González-Colón (R-PR), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Josh Harder (D-CA), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Denny Heck (D-WA), Jody Hice (R-GA), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Clay Higgins (R-LA), Katie Hill (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Kendra Horn (D-OK), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Bill Keating (D-MA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Ron Kind (D-WI), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Al Lawson (D-FL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Brian Mast (R-FL), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Bill Posey (R-FL), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Max Rose (D-NY), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Bobby Rush (D-IL), John Rutherford (R-FL), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Bobby Scott (D-VA), José Serrano (D-NY), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Donna Shalala (D-FL), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Adam Smith (D-WA), Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), Darren Soto (D-FL), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Mike Turner (R-OH), Fred Upton (R-MI), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Greg Walden (R-OR), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Michael Waltz (R-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), and John Yarmuth (D-KY).

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