I am one of several veteran volunteers who have met regularly since last July with members of the Shelby County court system, Veterans Administration personnel and other interested parties in the attempt to establish a veterans court for Shelby County.
Many of us are perplexed at your April 27 editorial "Help for vets facing charges," especially at what seems an uninformed opinion that veterans are offered a smorgasbord of services and support here in Shelby County, when they are not; with no explanation that our veteran warriors are among the most unlikely to seek help until being involved in some traumatic event -- seeing "help" as a marker of weakness.
The editorial suggested: "Defense attorneys can make the case to judges that their clients suffer from PTSD or combat-related brain injuries. Judges have the discretion to take those conditions under consideration in their case decisions." That is also misinformed, the writers not knowing how much more efficient the Shelby County justice system would be if all veterans' cases could be adjudicated in one court.
For example, VA veteran justice coordinator Patricia Hines (bless her heart) currently must visit all the different courts and the jail to complete assessments of veterans to find the VA benefits for which they might be eligible. She's now missing some veterans who might be eligible for VA help, whereas in a single court, and with the cooperation of pre-trial services, she would miss none. Streamlining all veterans into the veterans court would produce a savings in both time and money, as well as providing help to more of our deserving vets.
A streamlined veterans court, by offering VA help/services through a diversionary program, would most likely save Shelby County the entire cost for this court simply by diverting a few veterans from a jail term to the help that can be provided by the VA. Future savings to Shelby County by preventing broken veterans' families, preventing future crimes committed by disturbed veterans (suffering from PTSD and without help), and simply returning our veterans to productivity in our community, make the investment in the veterans court a bargain.
And, in the words of Wilford Brimley, "It's the right thing to do!"