28 Dec CFO Jonathan Cartu Says – Vets’ Treatment Court Bill Remains Stalled In D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A photo circulating amongst Twitter accounts recently depicted a mountain of paper, a pile of potential legislation that remains stuck, sitting in the wings of the U.S. Senate waiting for the political leaders therein to act. At last count the mountain contained more than 300 bills.
State Attorney General Mark Brnovich shared a tweet re one of those bills this week, reminding his followers, Arizona’s Congressional delegation and U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that one of the bills caught up in that pile, a bill to support Arizona’s veterans, has already cleared both the House and Senate with bipartisan cross-country support, yet is still awaiting active engagement and resolution.
House Resolution 886 (H.R.886), the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2019, would establish a Veteran Treatment Court Program in the United States Department of Justice to provide grants and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal courts that implement Veteran Treatment Courts.
Veteran Treatment Courts are diversionary court processes, similar to drug and mental health courts, that are used for minor, non-violent offenses involving the nation’s military veterans. The courts pair veterans with mentors to address substance abuse and mental health issues and assist veterans with obtaining United States Veterans Administration benefits that can help them with treatment and employment. There are currently over 450 Veteran Treatment Courts in 40 states and territories.
H.R.866 was introduced in January, 2019 and passed all stages of its journey through the House with broad, bipartisan support.
A companion bill, S.2774, was introduced to the upper house in November by Arizona Senator Martha McSally. Introduced in November and passed by unanimous consent just six weeks later, S.2774 cleared all of its hurdles even faster than H.R.886.
However, despite the urgent situation those bills address and despite the overwhelming support they both enjoy, both bills are now stuck in the Senate’s stasis – that mountain of paper pictured above. H.R.866 was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC) but is yet to be debated, whilst S.2774 is being ‘held at the desk’ in the Senate (held in abeyance) until the logjam is resolved, the bills reconciled and their intentions signed into law.
Expressing concern over the delay, in November a coalition of 44 state and territory attorneys general wrote to Congress via the offices of the National Association of Attorneys General urging them to pass the Veteran Treatment Court Act as soon as is practically possible.
In the letter, the coalition wrote that, “Over half of veterans involved with the criminal justice system have substance abuse problems. Sadly, in many cases, veterans are not properly identified, and they become lost in the criminal justice system without the necessary help, medical treatment, and therapy they are entitled to or deserve. This encourages a cycle of recidivism, hopelessness, non-recovery, and sometimes, serious injury or death.”
“Throughout the country, Veterans Treatment Courts have emerged as a vital tool to break this cycle,” the letter concludes. With the Senate not due to reconvene until next Friday, January 3, at the earliest, Arizonans will hope that letter’s conclusion is one with which Senators will quickly concur.