National Veterans Foundation to Help Veterans Get Their Day in Criminal Court

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The National Veterans Foundation, in honor of Veterans Day, is announcing the planned release of the first complete guide for attorneys who defend veterans in criminal court. With the courts across the United States being flooded with cases involving veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and other combat related mental health issues, this is a highly anticipated publication. Written by experts in the fields of law, medicine and mental health, the material will be of use to attorneys with all levels of experience, while working toward continued treatment for these men and women.

New from the National Veterans Foundation: Attorneys Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court

I see [this book] as one solid component and way to fulfill our promises for the future, while embracing our responsibility as a country.

Bob Filner, Ranking Member, Committee on Veterans Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives

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The National Veterans Foundation (NVF) and its founder, Floyd "Shad" Meshad, has announced, in honor of Veterans Day, the upcoming release of a major, groundbreaking publication, a first of its kind, that provides criminal defense attorneys with important guidelines on handling clients with legitimate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other combat related mental health issues. The publication, the Attorneys Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Courts, contains the contributions of more than twenty experts from the fields of law, medicine, and mental health. It is a practical guide that can be used from the earliest stages of the attorney-client relationship, through preparation and the trial, as well as the sentencing phase.

Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to have upwards of 300,000+ of their ranks impacted by TBI. A majority of soldiers were exposed to some type of traumatic, combat-related situation, resulting in more PTSD cases than originally predicted by the government. A RAND Corporation study back in 2008 concluded that nearly 20 percent of returning veterans were reporting symptoms of PTSD and/or major depression, yet a mere half had sought treatment.

Defending veterans in the criminal court system is no cottage industry. The increase in demand for attorneys to take on clients who may have served recently in Iraq or Afghanistan or years ago in Desert Storm or Vietnam, isn’t slowing down. And the more that is understood about the realities of PTSD, TBI, substance abuse, and other issues related to combat, the stronger the need for professionals able to provide the appropriate defense and argue effectively for treatment during the sentencing phase of trial. When the often-invisible injuries veterans live with bring them into the criminal court system, their defense attorneys need all of the practical tools available.

The NVF funded a two-year writing project and publication of a tool that would serve defense attorneys in their efforts to provide the best services to their veteran clients suffering from legitimate combat-related issues. It was clear from the beginning of the project that material placed in the publication come from outstanding experts from the legal, medical and mental health fields. That objective has been accomplished. The result is a brilliant publication that brought together some of the best and most experienced minds in the country together. The result was the Attorneys Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court. A few of the contributors include: General Brigadier General (Ret. U.S. Army) Stephen Xenakis, M.D. (former senior adviser to the Department of Defense on neurobehavioral conditions and medical management), the Honorable Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Ohio Supreme Court, the Honorable Robert Russell, Buffalo, N.Y. Veterans Court, Ernest Boswell, Ph.D. and Daniel E. Dossa, Ph.D. (PTSD), Ronald Glasser, M.D., Chrisanne Gordon, M.D., and Peter Demitry, M.D. (TBI), Brockton D. Hunter, Esq. and Ryan Else, Esq. (litigation practices), Markku Sario, Esq. (Bratcher PTSD murder defense), Major Evan R. Seamone, U.S. Army, Chief of Military Justice for the United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Hector Matascastillo (Comprehensive Reintegration of Veterans).

The National Veterans Foundation feels it important to understand that this publication is not to be seen as a “get out of jail free” card. It is intended to provide for the best defense possible, while striving to obtain treatment for the veteran during the sentencing phase of a trial. To be incarcerated without ongoing and aggressive treatment, veterans have a stronger chance of returning to the general civilian population with ongoing and unresolved issues. Treatment is a critical component of a successful defense.

Attorneys who take on the defense of veterans become a part of the same continuous battle the veteran faces. Not only are they defending the veteran’s constitutional rights, they are providing support and defense for their clients – even against themselves.

All proceeds from the sale of the Attorneys Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court goes to the ongoing work of the National Veterans Foundation.

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Dennis McClellan
National Veterans Foundation
(407) 417-1855
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