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116th Congress }                                            { Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session   }                                            { 116-259

======================================================================



 
            VETERAN TREATMENT COURT COORDINATION ACT OF 2019

                                _______
                                

October 28, 2019.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

    Mr. Nadler, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 886]

    The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the 
bill (H.R. 886) to direct the Attorney General to establish and 
carry out a Veteran Treatment Court Program, having considered 
the same, report favorably thereon without amendment and 
recommend that the bill do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Purpose and Summary..............................................     1
Background and Need for the Legislation..........................     2
Hearings.........................................................     4
Committee Consideration..........................................     4
Committee Votes..................................................     4
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     4
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures and Congressional 
  Budget Office Cost Estimate....................................     4
Duplication of Federal Programs..................................     4
Performance Goals and Objectives.................................     5
Advisory on Earmarks.............................................     5
Section-by-Section Analysis......................................     5

                          Purpose and Summary

    H.R. 886, the ``Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 
2019,'' directs the Attorney General to permanently establish a 
grant-program office, called the Veteran Treatment Court 
Program (VTCP), to administer veterans court grants that the 
Department of Justice (DOJ) awards to state, local, and tribal 
governments. The VTCP would build upon the success of the 
hundreds of veterans courts programs in the United States by 
standardizing data reporting methods, serving as a repository 
for resources, providing training to veterans court 
administrators, and serving as the DOJ subject matter experts 
on veterans courts issues.

                Background and Need for the Legislation

    In 2008, New York State City Court Judge Robert T. Russell, 
Jr. established the first veterans court program in Buffalo, 
New York,\1\ to leverage veteran-defendants' service 
backgrounds and improve justice outcomes.\2\ Judge Russell 
focused his efforts on issues that disproportionately impact 
veterans, including substance abuse, homelessness, 
unemployment, and mental health concerns.\3\ Veterans courts 
divert justice-involved veterans charged with certain crimes 
from traditional misdemeanor and felony dockets to specialty 
courts that focus on rehabilitation of the defendant-veteran 
through the provision of individualized treatment. There are 
now over 500 veterans courts in the nation.\4\ Most veterans 
courts promote a coordinated response to address the issues 
that may underlie a veteran's alleged criminal behavior.\5\ 
Some veterans courts adopt restorative justice treatment models 
and encourage the veteran-defendant to promote rehabilitation 
among their peer participants.\6\ To qualify for most veterans 
courts, evidence of an underlying service-connected mental 
health condition is usually required.\7\ In a majority of 
veterans courts, the prosecutor, the judge, and defense counsel 
facilitate counseling or the provision of other services by the 
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ Dahlia Lithwick, A Separate Peace: Why Veterans Deserve Special 
Courts, Newsweek, Feb. 22, 2010, at 20, https://www.newsweek.com/why-
veterans-deserve-special-courts75257.
    \2\ Robert T. Russell, Veterans Treatment Court: A Proactive 
Approach, 35 New Eng. J. on Crim. & Civ. Confinement 357, 360-61 
(2009), https://www.american.edu/spa/jpo/initiatives/drug-court/upload/
veterans-treatment-court-a-proactive-approach.pdf.
    \3\ Id. at 358-60.
    \4\ U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affs., Veterans Treatment Courts and 
Other Veteran-Focused Courts Served by VA Veterans Justice Outreach 
Specialists (Aug. 2018), https://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/docs/VJO/2018-
Veterans-Treatment-Courts-FactSheet-508.pdf.
    \5\ Nat'l Inst. of Corrs., U.S. Dep't of Just., Veterans Treatment 
Courts: A Second Chance for Vets who have Lost their Way 11 (May 2016), 
https://s3.amazonaws.com/static.nicic.gov/Library/030018.pdf.
    \6\ Julie Marie Baldwin & Joseph Rukus, Healing the Wounds: An 
Examination 
of Veterans Treatment Courts in the Context of Restorative Justice, 
Crim. 
Just. Pol'y Rev., Vol. 26(2) 183-207 (2015), http://
citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/
download?doi=10.1.1.850.9303&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
    \7\ Joseph Darius Jaafari, Special Courts for Veterans Languish, 
The Marshall Project (Feb. 19, 2019 6:00 AM), https://
www.themarshallproject.org/2019/02/19/special-courts-for-veterans-
languish.
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  I. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS SUPPORT TO VETERANS 
                                 COURTS

    Shortly after Judge Russell inaugurated the first veterans 
court, the VA began providing health support to veterans courts 
programs through its Veteran Justice Outreach (VJO) program.\8\ 
The support provided by the VA includes a consultant to the 
court called a VJO specialist, who serves on the veterans court 
treatment team, coordinates the provision of health care 
services, answers questions posed by the court, and assists the 
legal teams. The VJO specialist matches the defendant-veteran 
to programs that may assist the veteran on the road to 
recovery, which in the majority of cases starts with substance 
abuse or mental health treatment. The VA now offers a number of 
treatment options that are available to veterans court 
participants including, mentoring sessions, mental health 
counseling, substance abuse treatment, housing services, and 
vocational counseling.\9\ VJO specialists do not set guidelines 
for veterans court participation nor do they direct which 
defendants should be accepted into the program.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \8\ See U.S. Dep't of Veterans Aff., Veterans Treatment Courts.
    \9\ K. J. Knudsen & S. Wingenfeld, A Specialized Treatment Court 
for Veterans with Trauma Exposure: Implications for the Field. 
Community Mental Health J. 52(2), 127-35 (2016), http://dx.doi.org/
10.1007/s10597-015-9845-9.
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               II. NEED FOR SPECIALIZED VETERANS SERVICES

    One study reports that approximately nine percent of 
veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been arrested 
since returning home.\10\ The Bureau of Justice Statistics 
(BJS) estimates that approximately 181,500 veterans were 
incarcerated in state and federal prison and jail in 2011-
2012.\11\ Of those incarcerated veterans surveyed by BJS, 48% 
of veterans in prison and 55% of veterans in jail reported that 
they had been told by a mental health professional that they 
had a mental health disorder.\12\ BJS found that the number of 
incarcerated veterans who had seen combat who reported mental 
health disorders was even higher--60% in prison and 67% in 
jail.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\ Eric B. Elbogen et al., Criminal Justice Involvement, Trauma, 
and Negative Affect in Iraq and Afghanistan War Era Veterans, J. 
Consult Clin. Psychol. 80(6): 1097-1102 (Dec. 2012), https://
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3514623/.
    \11\ Jennifer Bronsom et al., Veterans in Prison and Jail, 2011-12, 
Bur. of Just. Stats., U.S. Dep't of Just. (Dec. 2015), https://
www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/vpj1112.pdf.
    \12\ Id.
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            III. VETERANS COURT LIMITATIONS & EFFECTIVENESS

    In 2017, a National Institute of Corrections survey of 79 
veterans court programs found that a majority of programs had 
modest enrollment (usually only 1-20 concurrent participants); 
76% of surveyed programs automatically exclude veterans charged 
with sex offenses; nearly 50% of veterans courts exclude 
veterans charged with violent offenses; and 45% of programs 
disqualify veterans previously convicted of violent 
offenses.\13\ By adopting policies that limit programs to 
nonviolent offenders, veterans courts may be excluding 64% of 
justice-involved veterans.\14\ Because veterans courts program 
adopt different standards and treatment programs, collecting 
uniform data, data reporting, and evaluating best practices is 
difficult.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \13\ Nat'l Inst. of Corrs., U.S. Dep't of Just., Veterans Treatment 
Courts: Identifying Key Findings from a Collaborative Survey (Mar. 
2017), https://info.nicic.gov/jiv/sites/info.nicic.gov.jiv/files/
Treatment-Court-Survey.pdf.
    \14\ Bronsom et al., at 4.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Empirical studies show that veterans courts provide more 
effective means of rehabilitating justice-involved veterans 
than traditional criminal prosecutions. Although 20% of 
veterans court participants received jail sanctions during the 
program, only 14% experienced a new incarceration during an 
average of nearly one year in the program.\15\ This rate of 
recidivism is substantially less than the 23%-46% one-year 
recidivism rate found among non-veteran prisoners.\16\ Most 
programs reported less than five dropouts in the 2017 calendar 
year.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \15\ Jack Tsai et al., A National Study of Veterans Treatment Court 
Participants: Who Benefits and Who Recidivates, Adm. Pol'y Mental 
Health. 45(2): 236-244 (Mar. 2018), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/
articles/PMC5776060/.
    \16\ M.R. Durose et al., Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 
States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010. Bur. of Just. Stats, U.S 
Dep't of Just (Apr. 2014), http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/
rprts05p0510.pdf.
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                                Hearings

    The Committee held no hearings on H.R. 886.

                        Committee Consideration

    On October 16, 2019, the Committee met in open session and 
ordered the bill, H.R. 886, favorably reported, without 
amendment, by voice vote, a quorum being present.

                            Committee Votes

    In compliance with clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, the Committee advises that no 
rollcall votes occurred during the Committee's consideration of 
H.R. 886.

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee advises that the 
findings and recommendations of the Committee, based on 
oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the 
descriptive portions of this report.

  New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures and Congressional Budget 
                          Office Cost Estimate

    With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and with respect 
to requirements of clause (3)(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives and section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has requested 
but not received a cost estimate for this Report from the 
Director of the Congressional Budget Office. The Committee has 
requested but not received from the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office a statement as to whether this 
Report contains any new budget authority, spending authority, 
credit authority, or an increase or decrease in revenues or tax 
expenditures.

                    Duplication of Federal Programs

    No provision of H.R. 886 establishes or reauthorizes a 
program of the Federal government known to be duplicative of 
another federal program, a program that was included in any 
report from the Government Accountability Office to Congress 
pursuant to section 21 of Public Law 111-139, or a program 
related to a program identified in the most recent Catalog of 
Federal Domestic Assistance.

                    Performance Goals and Objectives

    The Committee states that pursuant to clause 3(c)(4) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, H.R. 
886 would centralize administration of veterans court grants 
that DOJ awards to state, local, and tribal governments in a 
single program office. H.R. 886 would ease administration of 
currently authorized veterans court programs and facilitate the 
assessment of best practices.

                          Advisory on Earmarks

    In accordance with clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, H.R. 886 does not contain any 
congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff 
benefits as defined in clause 9(d), 9(e), or 9(f) of rule XXI.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

    The following discussion describes the bill as reported by 
the Committee.
    Sec 1. Short title. Section 1 sets forth the short title of 
the bill as the ``Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 
2019.''
    Sec 2. Sense of Congress. Section 2 sets forth the sense of 
Congress that veterans treatment courts provide successful 
interventions for nonviolent justice-involved veterans.
    Sec 3. Veteran Treatment Court Program. Section 3 directs 
the Attorney General to establish a Veteran Court Treatment 
Program that will serve as the Department's focal point to 
provide grants and technical assistance to state court systems 
that have adopted a veterans court program or filed an intent 
to do so. This section also incorporates existing veterans 
court programs administered by the Attorney General into the 
new program and authorizes the Attorney General to promulgate 
regulations to carry out the newly established program.