VA works to stop vets from repeating crimes

By P. Solomon Banda – The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Aug 5, 2009 21:28:44 EDT

DENVER — Bracing for an influx of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Veterans Affairs has launched an ambitious effort to locate veterans who’ve had minor brushes with the law and offer them treatment to try to prevent repeat crimes.  The VA started its Veterans Justice Outreach Program early this year — before public attention intensified on a handful of Fort Carson, Colo.-based soldiers accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning from a deployment where they faced intense combat. Most of the soldiers had been arrested for domestic violence, assault, illegal gun possession, and alcohol and drug charges before the slayings.   A July 15 Army report said more study is needed to link the soldiers’ alleged crimes with their heavy combat duty and lengthy deployments in Iraq.  The VA is training 145 specialists at its hospitals nationwide to help veterans who are in jails awaiting trial or serving misdemeanor sentences. Other VA programs aim to prevent homelessness and help veterans readjust after serving prison terms for serious crimes.  To date, more than 1.9 million U.S. service members have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, the largest deployment since 3.4 million were sent to Southeast Asia in support of the Vietnam War.


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