When Ron*, a former Green Beret, found himself in court on a misdemeanor assault charge, he was scared, anxious and without hope. That was until Baltimore City District Court Judge Halee Weinstein reviewed his case for the Veterans Treatment Court (VTC)—a program that provides area veterans the help they need to get back on their feet and become self-sufficient, rather than serve jail time.
Like many who have served active duty in the military, Ron had difficulty navigating the transition to civilian life. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a brain injury, as well as anxiety and trust issues. Judge Weinstein, an Army veteran herself, recognized that Ron could benefit from the VTC program, which would help him avoid a criminal record that could limit his future housing and employment options.
The VTC matches participants with mentors who are also veterans, and can provide support and guidance for health, employment, legal, financial, counseling, and other services. As veteran participants reach program milestones, they receive “dog tags” recognizing their resilience, honor, courage and dedication during the course of the program. Graduates are awarded a stately “leave no veteran behind” keepsake challenge coin that represents their journey.
Because the most common struggles returning vets face are related to finding and keeping a job, finances, legal matters, substance abuse, mental health, relationships and homelessness, the VTC provides a coordinated approach to treating veterans, whether they’re eligible for VA benefits or not, according to United Way’s VTC program coordinator Jamie Meyers. “Vets in the program often have access to services they’re not aware of, and we help coordinate a treatment plan that leverages these services and provides others in order to move them more swiftly toward self-sufficiency and a more stable life.”
For Ron, the thought of returning to the courthouse in order to participate in the program, made him wary. Over time however, he developed rapport with the Judge, his mentor, the attorneys and his service providers. “I began to see that everyone was for me, not against me.”
According to Judge Weinstein, who was instrumental in establishing the VTC, “My favorite thing is to witness how hard the veterans are trying to change their lives and to see their pride in their progress. I feel that each one of them is my soldier and that I have an obligation as a former Army officer to take care of my soldiers. Our motto is ‘Leave No Veteran Behind.’ I am very proud of our entire Veterans Treatment Court team for believing in that motto and for working hard to try to make sure that every one of our veterans returns to having a productive life. I feel very lucky to be a part of this amazing collaborative effort to take care of those who have served our country.”
Today, Ron has successfully completed the program, and is now enrolled in school where he’s studying how to help others who suffer from emotional pain. He is a man who has faced adversity, demonstrated perseverance and has come full circle. He is a hero we thank for his service.
We salute all our veterans near and far who have served in order to protect our freedom.
The Veterans Treatment Court program is supported by a grant from the Maryland Judiciary’s Office of Problem-Solving Courts.
*Name changed to maintain client confidentiality.