King Announces Support for Bipartisan Bill to Bolster Veterans Justice Program

Senator Angus King announced today his support for the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2017, a bipartisan legislation that would strengthen the Veterans Justice Program to support veterans involved in the criminal justice system.

The bill, introduced by Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), would require the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to hire at least 50 Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists, place each one at an eligible VA medical center, and ensure that they serve as part of a justice team in a veterans treatment court or other veteran-focused court.

“Maine is proud to have one of the highest percentages of veterans per capita in the country, and we have an obligation to serve them as they have served us,” said Senator King in a statement. “Veterans Treatment Courts work, and they ensure that veterans in need of rehabilitation have access to specialized and effective services. It is incumbent upon us to provide comprehensive, accessible care for our veterans across the state and nation and I’m glad to see a commonsense bill that helps give veterans a fair shot.”

The bill requires the Department of Veteran Affairs to hire additional Veterans Justice Outreach specialists to provide veterans with streamlined and personalized treatment through its Veteran Justice Outreach program. The Veterans Justice Outreach program helps to address veteran-specific health issues as a form of rehabilitation rather than criminalization. Veterans Justice Outreach specialists provide direct outreach and case management to Veterans in local courts and jails alongside partners throughout the justice system.

In February, Senator King wrote to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs urging him to fund two additional staff positions for the Veterans Justice Program in Maine to help better serve the needs of justice-involved Maine veterans confronting homelessness, mental health, or substance abuse issues.