Veteran Supreme Court Initiative

Veterans Treatment Court
NYS Unified Court System

Most veterans are strengthened by their military service, but the combat experience has left a growing number of veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries. One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment.  One in six veterans who served in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from a form of substance abuse upon returning from their tour of duty. Left untreated, veteran health issues like PTSD leads to a pattern of self-destructive behavior that often leads to incarceration. The Veterans Treatment Court model requires regular court appearances (a bi-weekly minimum in the early phases of the program), as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and submit to random testing for substance abuse. Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment given their military experience. The Veterans Treatment Court ensures they meet their obligations to themselves, the court and community.

In October of 2014, the Veteran Treatment Court of New York officially endorsed VRL’s program: Project 360º to address the needs of this generations veterans. VRL staff hit the ground running by registering the programs first-cycle of candidates, immediately following the first meeting between the VTC and VRL. The rolling success of this first wave of candidates reinforced the courts decision to implement Project 360º throughout the NY state judicial system.

Veterans Rebuilding LifeSeen above are VRL members Kevin Vargas-Colon, Dre Popow and José Cabrera – standing alongside Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Brennan, immediately following the February 9th meeting in Judge Brennan’s chambers, where VRL representatives were invited to present Project 360º to members of Brooklyn’s Veteran Treatment Court. Judge Brennan, an Airborne Army officer during the Vietnam War, confirmed Brooklyn’s decision to incorporate Project 360º  as an alternative program for vets facing incarceration. The court provided VRL with on-site office locations to implement the multi-phase strategy, designed to assist returning veterans struggling with civilian reintegration. The joint initiative is scheduled to launch in April of 2015. Judge Brennan concluded the meeting by inviting VRL representatives to attend the VTC Stakeholders Conference–to present  Project 360º as an effective strategy capable of reaching across veteran demographics on a national scale.

Veterans Rebuilding LifeSeen above from left, is Dre Popow – VRL Executive Director, Herbert Hardwick and Elan Robin – Brooklyn VTC’s Veteran Care Coordinators, Bernadette M. Colbert – VTC Mentor Coordinator, Joseph R. Madonia – VTC Director, Honorable Michael J. Brennan – Justice of the Supreme Court, Denise Lukowski – Dept. of Veterans Affairs Justice Outreach Coordinator, Kevin Vargas-Colon – VRL Managing Director, Mark Bishop – VRL Financial Advisor, and José Cabrera – VRL Education Officer for Project 360º.