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Jailed for Receiving PTSD Benefits, Vet Takes Case to U.S. Supreme Court

posted Dec 7, 2011, 3:39 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Dec 7, 2011, 3:39 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

Becareful of who you piss off when demanding what is rightfully yours...

Keith Roberts Petition to U.S. Supreme Court

I still can’t get over the fact that Vietnam-era veteran, Keith Roberts was targeted by the U.S. Dept of Veteran Affairs (DVA), convicted and then jailed in 2005 for receiving PTSD disability benefits.

By Michael Leon

His crime? According to the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Stephen Biskupic (2001-08), Roberts did not know his fellow airman, Gary Holland,  [an absurd suggestion] who was crushed to death by a C-54 airplane at a U.S. base in Naples, Italy in 1969, and that Roberts who was on line duty exaggerated his efforts to save his friend’s life.

Furthermore, Roberts was wrong to follow the advice of his Veteran’s Service Officer (Shawano County (Wisconsin)) who had determined that Keith Roberts was entitled to an earlier effective date for his diagnosed PTSD.

Roberts hates the VA, and rightfully so.

In fact, Roberts had been a thorn in the side of the Milwaukee Regional VA’s office as well as the Illinois-based regional VA Inspector General’s office for insisting on his rights as a veteran to his benefits in less-than-diplomatic tones and language.

Keith Roberts

“Keith Roberts was granted a 100% compensation rate for PTSD from his date of claim. To grant PTSD, we need both a.) a current diagnosis and b.) a verified in-service stressor. We found not only a stressor, but an in-service diagnosis for Airman Roberts,” said a source at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee who e-mailed the Lee Rayburn radio show in Madison after a broadcast of a show on Roberts. “[T]he only reason Airman Roberts was ever prosecuted was because he was a ‘belligerent ass’ who kept insisting that he get paid back to discharge. He was demanding an appeal in Washington. I’d have to say that you guys are TOTALLY (uppercase in the original) right about Roberts’ conviction being bullshit. …”

So, in response the former VA General Counsel attorney and VA national Director of Compensation and Pension Services, Renee L. Szybala, pushed U.S. Atty Biskupic to indict Roberts of mail [wire] fraud, predicating the indictment, it bears repeating, upon the ludicrous notion that Roberts and Holland did not know each other, and that Roberts exaggerated his reported efforts to keep his friend from being crushed to death.

For the record:

Holland and Roberts were both on line duty when Holland was killed:

  • - Took two weeks-long classes together while stationed together in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968
  • - Were quartered in the same barracks at Lakehurst, NJ where they also trained together for weeks
  • - Went into the Naval Air Force base in Naples, Italy together as two young airman
  • - Slept in close quarters (feet away from each other) while at Naval Air Station base in Naples, Italy
  • - Worked in the same and only base air hangar together
  • - Took an advancement test together on the morning of the day Holland was killed on Feb. 4, 1969

Roberts is basing his U.S. Supreme Court petition for a writ of cert upon the fact that he was denied his fundamental right to due process and was deprived of both liberty and property.

Roberts’ 200-plus appeal gets legal and complicated after that.

But as someone who has reported on this case from the beginning, let me break down what happened.

As readers of Uppity Wisconsin may notice there is a comment from a veteran posted some years ago about Roberts, who corroborates Roberts’ narrative.

But the wronged Navy Airman Keith Roberts (1968-71) had POed off the wrong people and a corrupt U.S. Attorney [see U.S. Attorneys Scandal–Milwaukee] saw to it that an innocent man was wrongfully imprisoned for “tenaciously pursuing a claim for VA disability benefits” when the neocons were in charge of the U.S. DVA and U.S. DoJ.

To give you an idea who Biskupic is, see:

Roberts and his family are still fighting to get their lives together.

As for Biskupic, he seamlessly moved from corrupt, Bush-era U.S. Attorney to defender of the corrupt Scott Walker campaign in Wisconsin.

Well, this regime is gone.

But the damage remains from this bunch, a fact worth noting in conclusion.

Politicalization of public officials – shocker

There are plenty of candidates for condemnation in this affair in today’s environment when whole agencies of the U.S. government have been usurped by an administration lacking in conscience and public accountability, politicizing virtually every agency in sight, including U.S. Atty Biskupic’s office.

· Special Agent Raymond Vasil of the regional VA Inspector General’s office [“A cop Vasil is not, just an idiot with a badge,” said one veteran assisting Roberts] who lied to and vocally mocked Roberts while flying around the country fabricating a case against Roberts.

· The VA benefits process that systemically wears down veterans with the apparent intention of inducing them to give up their fight for benefits [this process is being adjudicated in the unprecedented class action suit by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.] In fact, the VA claims process can be so frustrating that many vets (especially those suffering from PTSD) are thrown into fits of rage directed at the VA itself.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) that demeans veterans for seeking help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in this “culture of trauma.”

· The Pentagon that blames veterans “personality disorders” and lack of faith in God for veterans suffering after service.

· Former VA national Director of Compensation and Pension Services, Renee L. Szybala, and Jon Baker, director of the Milwaukee Regional VA office actively participated in efforts to have Roberts prosecuted, while they intentionally took steps to ensure the VA Regional Counsel did not have an opportunity to perform the mandatory legal review before the matter went to the U.S. Attorney, as required by federal regulations. Again, Szybala knew that Roberts had an appeal pending at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and that under VA regulations until that appeal was completed the case should not have been released for criminal or collection action.

· Barbra Nehls, formerly of the Milwaukee VA Regional office, who wrongly claimed at trial that Roberts’ benefits were reduced based upon the VA’s determination that Roberts’ statements of facts from 1969 formed the basis of the VA decision to grant or deny benefits. This is a material misrepresentation of VA procedure.

· And of course, Carolyn F. Washington, VA deputy asst general counsel, a woman without conscience and quintessential social climber.

Federal Court Declares Veterans Administration Violated Free Speech Rights of Veteran

posted May 31, 2011, 12:50 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated May 31, 2011, 12:52 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

(Los Angeles)- A federal court has ruled that the Veterans Administration (VA) violated the free speech rights of a veteran who protested the agency’s failure to use part of its property in west Los Angeles for the benefit and care of veterans, particularly those who are homeless.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in March 2010 on behalf of Robert Rosebrock. The 69-year-old Vietnam-era Veteran has protested the VA’s land-use policies every Sunday since 2008, along with other veterans. During the protests, Rosebrock often displays the American flag upside down on a fence outside VA property in west Los Angeles as a distress symbol to draw attention to the group’s cause. Police demanded that he remove the flag, and when Rosebrock refused, the police removed it themselves. Previously, VA police had allowed Rosebrock to display the flag right side up at the same site.

“Hanging the flag upside down was an important and necessary message for Mr. Rosebrock,” said Peter Eliasberg, ACLU/SC legal director. “He fought to defend the First Amendment, and the Court decided correctly that the very right he fought for was violated.”

For 66 weeks in a row, Rosebrock hung the flag right side up without any interference from the VA police. However, after he started hanging the flag upside down in June 2009, he was quickly cited six times for “unauthorized demonstration or service in a national cemetery or on other VA property.” Rosebrock also received an e-mail from Lynn Carrier, associate director of the

Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, which said in part that he and his fellow demonstrators “may not attach the American flag, upside down, in VA property including our perimeter gates.”
The VA eventually dismissed the citations against Rosebrock, but the action of the VA police in removing a flag that Rosebrock had hung upside down made clear the agency’s unconstitutional policy of denying him his free speech rights.
The VA complex was specifically deeded to the United States in 1888 as a home for disabled veterans. Rosebrock and his fellow veterans demonstrated in front of a portion of the complex that the VA is planning to lease for use as a public park. Another portion of the land is now leased to a nearby private school for tennis courts, which veterans are not allowed to access.

Other buildings on the land are leased for use as theaters. Rosebrock was particularly incensed last year when the VA allowed a “celebrity carnival” to take place on the property, at a time when there are more than 6,500 homeless veterans in Los Angeles, including some who sleep on the sidewalk adjacent to the VA land that has been leased to build a public park.

“On this Memorial Day weekend, it’s good to know that the courts recognize the right to free speech that veterans have fought and died to defend,” said Robert Rosebrock. “This land was deeded for the use and care of veterans and is being stolen away and leased to private, special interest groups with no transparency or accountability for the money generated. The Flag Code allows for the flag to be displayed upside down when property is in danger. It’s clear to us that this property is in danger, and has been for a long time.”

House approves four veteran-related bills

posted May 24, 2011, 6:35 AM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated May 31, 2011, 12:50 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

By Pete Kasperowicz - 05/23/11 07:08 PM ET

The House on Monday approved four non-controversial bills related to the treatment of veterans, with little debate.

By voice vote, the House approved H.R. 1407, which would increase the cost of living adjustment for veterans with service-related disabilities. This bill also extends the Veterans' Administration's ability to provide special housing assistance to veterans.

By a 380-0 vote, the House approved H.R. 1627, which sets out new conditions for placing monuments in Arlington National Cemetery. This bill specifically calls for a memorial to Jewish chaplains who served in the U.S. military, and prevents the practice of reserving burial plots.

The House also approved H.R. 1383, which would increase a cap on tuition and fees paid by the government for private education. Members believed this cap, which was set in 2010, needed to be increased from $17,500 to $27,000 to cover veterans already enrolled in private educational institutions that had costs above the $17,500 cap. This bill was approved in a 389-0 vote.

Finally, the House approved H.R. 1657, which calls for tougher penalties against companies that misrepresent themselves as owned or operated by veterans. Under this will, companies found to be claiming this incorrectly would be disbarred from contracting with the Veterans' Administration for five years. This bill passed by a 385-1 vote; only Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) voted against the bill.

Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) Program

posted May 10, 2011, 12:19 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated May 10, 2011, 12:22 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

Courtesy of Military.com Week of May 09, 2011

Each VA Medical Center has a Veterans Justice Outreach specialist. VJO's help justice-involved veterans suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues avoid unnecessary punishment and jail time. VJO's help Veterans get access to VHA mental health and other VA services and benefits. They work with public defenders, providers, community and veterans organizations, the courts, and others to find ways to help justice-involved veterans rather than punish them. Find VJO Contacts at your local VA Medical Center.

To learn more about your state's veteran benefits, visit the Military.com State Veteran's Benefits Directory.

Military Medical Personnel Face Malpractice Shield Challenge

posted Apr 25, 2011, 12:10 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Apr 25, 2011, 12:14 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

April 23, 2011

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Veterans, military families and others who oppose a decades-old law that shields military medical personnel from malpractice lawsuits are rallying around a case they consider the best chance in a generation to change the widely unpopular protection.

The U.S. Supreme Court has asked for more information from attorneys and will decide next month whether to hear the case of a 25-year-old non commissioned officer who died after a nurse put a tube down the wrong part of his throat.

If the law is overturned, it could expose the federal government to billions of dollars in liability claims. That makes it highly unlikely a divided Congress desperate to cut expenses will act on its own to change what's called the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court ruling that effectively equates injuries from medical mistakes with battlefield wounds.

The court case involves the death of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dean Patrick Witt, who was hospitalized in 2003 for what should have been a routine appendectomy at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif. Following surgery, a nurse anesthetist inserted a breathing tube into his esophagus instead of his trachea or airway, depriving his brain of oxygen. Witt, of Oroville, Calif., died once his family removed him from life support three months later.

The nurse admitted her mistake and surrendered her state license. Federal courts denied the legal claim by Witt's widow, saying their hands were tied by the Feres Doctrine. Witt's family appealed, aiming to help other service members who get hurt in military hospitals.

"We labored on this for a long, long time, and we decided that the right thing to do here was to protect the rights of other people who go into the military and are signing away their rights to get good health care in the military system," said Witt's brother-in-law, Carlos Lopez, of Salt Lake City. "So we're hoping, we're praying, that his case could be the one that changes everything."

The Feres (pronounced FEHR-es) ruling grew out of the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, which allowed lawsuits against the government for negligent acts under certain circumstances. Initially the law was interpreted to forbid lawsuits by military personnel and their families only for combat-related injuries and deaths, but the decision in Feres vs. United States - involving a soldier who died in a barracks fire - widened that exclusion to bar any lawsuits over injuries "incident to military service."

Opponents argue that the act's intent was never to prevent servicemen and women who are victims of medical malpractice and their families from seeking redress. The effort to change the law has gotten wide support from military officers and veterans groups, including seven that have filed briefs in Witt's case to demonstrate the public's interest to the justices.

"We've given them a case that presents them with the best opportunity to fix this in a long time," said Jamal Alsaffar, whose Austin, Texas, law firm represents the family. "They're the ones who broke it, so they are in the best position to fix it."

At least one of the justices has criticized the law the last time a related case came before the high court. The 1987 case reaffirmed the military hospitals' protections in a 5-4 ruling, with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia writing a harsh dissenting opinion.

"Feres was wrongly decided and heartily deserves the widespread, almost universal criticism it has received," Scalia wrote.

The law has survived myriad legal challenges over the years and various congressional efforts to overturn it. In 2009, a bill introduced in the House - in the name of a 29-year-old Marine sergeant and Iraq war veteran who died of skin cancer his family claims was misdiagnosed - got some traction, but not enough. Republican lawmakers derided the measure, saying that opening up the military to lawsuits would be expensive and benefit trial lawyers more than service families.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cost the government an average of $135 million every year in claims. If the law were made retroactive, the estimated price tag was $2.7 billion over the next 10 years.

One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., argued that the cost would be less than estimated because the law would result in a better level of care in military hospitals and fewer negligence claims.

"If there were a normal element of responsibility there would be less carelessness," Hinchey said.

Feres supporters also say doing away with it would give a soldier who loses a limb to a doctor's mistake, for example, a shot at a lucrative lawsuit, while another who loses a limb in combat would be limited to whatever help the Pentagon provides.

"This could demean injuries suffered in combat by providing the soldier injured on the battlefield with administrative compensation while the soldier injured in a military hospital could seek a multimillion-dollar damage award in federal court," U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said in a committee hearing on the 2009 bill.

In Bradenton, Fla., the family of Lance Cpl. Ezequiel Freire learned about the Feres Doctrine after the 20-year-old Afghanistan combat veteran died from an overdose of medication in a naval hospital in Portsmouth, Va. Freire's autopsy said he died from "multi-drug toxicity," and the hospital later said his treatment led to certain unspecified corrections and policy changes.

"They know nobody can do nothing, nobody can touch (them), because they have a medical negligence cover," said the Marine's father, Jorge Freire, whose family members started a website and have become activists for changing the law. "We want to do something for the next people who go to that hospital. Maybe we can make a difference, make it safe."

Seven-Month Moratorium on EAJA Fees: Veterans to suffer

posted Apr 6, 2011, 6:49 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Apr 6, 2011, 6:53 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

Courtesy of VeteranBenefitGroup.com

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget amendment that, if enacted into law, would essentially invoke a seven-month moratorium on payment of all legal fees by the government to those who successfully litigate a matter against it. Such payments are currently authorized under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).

In 1980, Congress established EAJA in response to its concern that people may be deterred from seeking review of, or defending against, unreasonable governmental action because of the expense involved in suing the government to vindicate their rights. Congress expressly made payment of legal fees under the EAJA available to veterans and their dependents who hire private attorneys to represent them at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and if they win the case against the government in that court.

If the budget amendment becomes law, EAJA fees would be temporarily suspended. Because there does not appear to be a distinction between those people who would be affected by the broad moratorium, veterans and their dependents would likely suffer because attorneys rely on reimbursement of reasonable attorney fees under EAJA in order to provide low or no cost services. If the attorneys are not awarded attorney fees in successful appeals, it is unlikely that they would agree to represent veterans and their dependents before the court. This will negatively affect those who have been unfairly denied benefits by VA and need the expertise of an attorney skilled in the area of veteran’s benefits law to litigate the matter at the Court.

To see the EAJA deliberations, check out http://www.scribd.com/doc/49535676/EAJA-Deliberations

Crucial Deadlines

posted Apr 6, 2011, 6:44 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Apr 6, 2011, 6:48 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

Courtesy of VeteranBenefitGroup.com

The United States Supreme Court does not often hear cases from the veterans claims system, but it recently issued a decision in Henderson v. Shinseki that was favorable to veterans, though the claimant in this case is not completely out of the woods.

All appellate systems have prescribed periods for appealing to a higher court. In many instances the filing of a document to initiate the appeal, a notice of appeal (NOA), is “jurisdictional,” meaning that failure to file it properly deprives the court of the power to hear the appeal. The issue for the Supreme Court was whether Mr. Henderson’s claim had suffered this fatal blow when, because of a paranoid schizophrenic episode, he missed the filing deadline for his appeal to the Veterans Court. That court and the Federal Circuit above it held that this failure required dismissal of the claim.

The Supreme Court reversed, however. It recognized that veterans’ appeals are part of a unique administrative scheme, and it said that the statute containing the appeal deadline indicated Congressional concern for veterans, such that Congress would not have intended the deadline to be jurisdictional.

The high court noted that the deadline was an important rule, however, and it sent the case back for further consideration as to whether there was any exception that should be applied. There is a principle called “equitable tolling” that may allow the court to hear the appeal if it is found that ultimate fairness and justice so requires.

While it is a victory for veterans that the court allowed for the possibility of some exceptions to the strict deadline, there is no assurance in advance that an exception would apply. This reinforces the crucial importance of filing a notice of appeal on time and in the proper place.

To appeal to the Veterans Court from the agency (Board of Veterans’ Appeals), the notice must be filed within 120 days of the Board’s decision and it is filed with (sent to) the Veterans Court itself, not the agency. To appeal from the Veterans Court to the Federal Circuit, one has 60 days from the entry of judgment by the Veterans Court (usually about 21-22 days after the decision), but the filing is made with the Veterans Court, not the Federal Circuit.

A Second Chance: Veterans Treatment Courts

posted Apr 4, 2011, 12:42 PM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Apr 4, 2011, 12:46 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

By Kate Hoit March 30, 2011 at 4:27 pm Courtesy of VA.gov

When a Veteran returns home from war, they trade adrenaline-soaked firefights for mall shopping and combat patrols for classrooms. When life screeches to a relative halt, there tends to be a common question among Vets: Now what? The false sense that life will fall perfectly back in place, coupled with the idea of what is supposed to come next and the realization that the rush felt during deployment is gone forever can lead some Vets to go heavy on alcohol and drugs, ultimately catapulting them into a legal system that, until recently, was unable to adequately deal with the unique challenges faced by Vets.


As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Slaughterhouse-Five, in war, “absolutely everybody gets a little something.” For Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, unfortunately, that can mean coming home with post-traumatic stress, an increased risk for homelessness, and—in a tiny minority of cases—a temper that can lead to problems. For these reasons, Veterans Treatment Courts became a phenomenon. The idea was brought to life in 2008 in western New York by Judge Robert Russell, who based the idea on making a hybrid court—one that took aspects of popular drug and mental health courts already established across the U.S. By early 2010, there were 24 operational Veterans courts—from Buffalo to Los Angeles with another 40 in development across the United States.

With the growing number of Veterans Treatment Courts, VA required justice-focused action at the medical center level, hence the Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative was created to educate the legal system, law enforcement, and jails on unique issues facing today’s Veterans. Once Veterans enter the legal system, VJO specialists help them avoid unnecessary incarceration through integration into VA substance and mental health treatment programs.

According to Chris Woods, a Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist with the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, most of the arrests he has seen among young Iraq and Afghanistan Vets are for driving under the influence, simple assaults, public intoxication, resisting arrest, and possession of drugs. Woods says the Veterans he works with do not typically have a history of violence or drug use. This makes it even more critical to get those eligible into VA treatment instead of behind bars.

To be eligible for treatment services, Veterans need an honorable discharge and two or more years of active duty service. However, with the ongoing conflicts, the two-year requirement is often waived if the Veteran has been deployed. If a Vet has an other-than-honorable discharge, he or she can file an appeal. For those with a dishonorable discharge, Woods will refer them to a Wounded Warrior program which will work with a Veteran regardless of discharge status.

Sean Clark, the National Coordinator of Veterans Justice Outreach in the Office of Mental Health Services here at VA, believes the success of the treatment courts is due to “connecting Vets with VA services at the earliest possible point.” And the first encounter for the Vet is usually with law enforcement.


The law enforcement personnel who participate in the program are trained to deal with PTSD, crisis intervention, and how to interact with someone who has mental health issues. They also receive information about VA substance and mental health programs. Law enforcement has been trained to remain calm and simply ask if the person they’re encountering is a Veteran.

“Law enforcement is receptive to the training,” said Woods. “A lot of them are Veterans themselves.”

Woods has introduced himself to a handful of courts and jails and personally links up with 40 – 50 courts and 21 jails in 43 counties and eight cities. He educates the courts on what VA services are available and how VA can be used to help the troubled Veteran. While VJO specialists identify appropriate VA services, the court ultimately decides if the program is suitable for the Veteran.

“I have not had a judge or court turn down VA services or resources yet,” said Woods.

Once a Veteran has accepted VJO services the court can pair them with a mentor, usually a Veteran, who provides peer support. The Veteran must also identify and actively pursue personal goals, which include employment and educational opportunities.

If a Veteran has landed in jail, VJO specialists still have an opportunity to reach them prior to their release. Veterans are identified by prison mental health staff and connected with a specialist. However, the biggest challenge Woods sees is that Veterans don’t actually know they are a Veteran and qualify for VA services.

“They don’t see themselves as Veterans,” said Woods. “They automatically think of old people as being Vets. . .not young people.”

Woods estimates he has helped between 50 – 100 Veterans during his year and a half on the job. His time on each case varies from simply writing up a court report to months of dedicated in order to help a Veteran succeed. But the reaction he receives is typically the same: positive and grateful.

Veteran Treatment Courts continue to spread across the country, welcomed by communities for their efforts to help Vets in need. No one who deploys anticipates returning home to life in a jail cell. With the help of Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists and Veteran Treatment Courts, Vets are being given a second chance.

“Someone in crisis doesn’t belong in jail but deserves some help,” said Clark.

Learn more about the Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative.

SAN DIEGO: First County Veterans Court Date Set

posted Mar 9, 2011, 8:59 AM by Info @NesloVentures   [ updated Mar 11, 2011, 3:39 PM by Neslo Ventures ]

North County Times - The Californian | Posted: Friday, January 21, 2011

San Diego County finally has a veterans court.

With a stroke of his pen Wednesday, Superior Court presiding Judge Kevin Enright approved what's technically known as the Veterans Treatment Review Calendar, a pilot program born of years of planning and consensus building.

The first cases are set for Feb. 4 in San Diego before Judge Roger W. Krauel, a Vietnam veteran who spent 35 years in uniform. A San Diego judge since 199l, Krauel will spend one day a week concentrating on veterans' cases from across the county.

"It is another positive step to addressing a real problem in our community," Krauel said of the voluntary program that primarily targets Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma or substance abuse issues who run afoul of the law.

"This pilot will help us start sorting out the best ways to serve the public safety while bringing veterans who have offended back into the law-abiding community," said Krauel.

The county and its estimated 235,000 veterans will now join Santa Ana, Tulsa, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and dozens of places nationwide running courts focused on rehabilitating veterans through aggressive case management instead of jailing them.

The largest numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans anywhere in the country live in San Diego County, an estimated 30,000.

In recent years, increasing numbers of them have landed in county jails for what's been described as "impulse crimes" such as drunk driving, spouse and child abuse, barroom brawls and resisting arrest.

So many, in fact, that San Diego County now has upwards of 150 young veterans enmeshed in the criminal justice system and another 400 of all ages either in jail or facing charges.

San Diego attorney Jude Litzenberger has co-chaired the legal task force to establish the veteran diversion program since 2007. She said the calendar is good news for veterans and the public alike.

"Right now, the judges are seeing veterans in a number of San Diego County courtrooms," she said. "This is a good opportunity to consolidate those cases in order to do the kind of monitoring and mentoring that's been shown to both remove veterans from criminality while ensuring a safer community.

"If you send someone to DUI school when they need to go to PTSD counseling, you are doing a disservice to both the veteran and the public."

Litzenberger said the pending veterans treatment program won't be easy, but if successfully completed, it could wipe the slate clean for troubled veterans.

Take driving under the influence of alcohol, for example. Someone arrested on a first-time DUI can expect to pay $2,000 in fines, draw five years of unsupervised probation, attend 32 hours of alcohol education and agree to take a Breathalyzer test at any time.

Someone admitted into Veterans Treatment Review Calendar must comply with all of the above, plus undergo exposure therapy for PTSD, agree to drug and alcohol testing and have regular contact with a probation officer.

Buffalo Judge Robert Russell started the first veterans' court in January 2008. A hybrid of existing specialty courts such as domestic violence court, mental health court and drug court veterans' court has been a striking success.

Of 120 veterans enrolled in Russell's program, 90 percent successfully completed the program and the recidivism rate is zero.

Below are key provisions of the Veterans Treatment Review Calendar:

A defendant will be assigned to the VTRC based on the recommendations of the prosecutor and defense lawyer, and supporting information from the probation department and agencies providing assessment and treatment.

All of the programs of the San Diego Court are open to defendants who are on active duty, including the VTRC. In certain circumstances, military procedures allow for military sanctions to be imposed in addition to whatever a civilian court does. Where there is military jurisdiction over a crime, it is up to the prosecutor whether a case is also filed in state court.

The VTRC will have the power to review cases already adjudicated. To do this, attorneys would make a joint recommendation to the criminal court judge conducting the probation hearing and sentencing of the defendant; or to the judge reviewing, post-sentence, the performance of probation.

Defense attorneys interested in the new program should contact Litzenberger at judelitz@aol.com. Put "VTRC Inquiry" in the subject line for a faster response.

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