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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. BROWNLEY of California. Madam Chair, I rise tonight to offer an amendment to H.R. 4660, which would increase funding for Veterans Treatment Courts.

Our Nation's heroes are returning home from over a decade of war with the invisible wounds that come with multiple deployments and military service to our Nation. I am concerned that the effects of posttraumatic stress and TBI have led to a rise in substance abuse among our veterans, which in turn too often leads to criminal activity.

This has led to an increase in veterans being incarcerated by our justice system without addressing the mental health counseling they need after their service to our country.

My simple amendment would increase funds for Veterans Treatment Courts by $1 million. Treatment courts are designed to address fundamental problems with our troubled veterans who have succumbed to substance abuse and have gotten in trouble with the law. These courts are designed to provide mental health counseling that focuses on rehabilitation and sobriety, and works with veterans to address the reasons for their criminal behavior. Veterans Treatment Courts provide our veterans with long-term solutions versus short-term punishment.

In January, I visited a Veterans Treatment Court in Ventura County. They are doing an amazing job with a team of professionals really truly saving one life at a time and providing a last chance for our veterans. Rather than arresting and jailing veterans for a few days or weeks, only to return them to the same type of life, the Ventura County collaborative court connects veterans to needed treatment and services, which may include mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, vocational rehabilitation, or other life skills services and programs.

The process begins with a guilty plea and in-court meeting involving the veteran, his or her attorney, and a VA representative. I was very impressed with the care that the court officers and volunteers extended to veterans who found themselves before the court.

In Ventura County, Judge Toy White has been a real champion of the veterans court and has put together a very successful and effective program.

However, the Ventura County court is just one example of many of a Veterans Treatment Court. I believe we need to increase Federal resources to these critical programs nationwide, which is what my amendment seeks to accomplish.

It is our obligation to ensure our veterans receive the appropriate attention to their needs and that we do whatever we can to help them transition to an independent civilian life.

I strongly urge my colleagues to support my amendment to rehabilitate veterans who have gotten in trouble with the law and help them secure a strong future.

Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.


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