Chairman Nadler Statement for the Markup of H.R. 4035, the Real Justice for Our Veterans Act of 2021
Washington, July 21, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during the markup of H.R. 4035, the Real Justice for Our Veterans Act of 2021:
"H.R. 4035, the 'Real Justice for Our Veterans Act of 2021,' is an important bill to buttress the veterans court system by ensuring that the most effective rehabilitative treatments are implemented and are available to all veterans who need them.
"This bill would also expand access to rehabilitative services to veterans who would otherwise qualify for treatment and alternatives to incarceration, but who do not have a veterans treatment court in their jurisdiction.
"For more than a decade, veterans treatment court programs around the country have successfully provided support to veterans struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues.
"These courts allow qualifying veterans to receive court-supervised comprehensive treatment provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs or community organizations providing mental health or substance use treatment.
"Because veterans courts across the country offer so many different and wide-ranging services, comprehensive data collection is needed to discern and replicate the most promising methods. That is why the Real Justice for Our Veterans Act would expand data collection on the effectiveness of certain treatment practices in reducing recidivism.
"In addition, the bill would ensure that referrals to veterans treatment courts are determined in a fair and equitable manner. The bill would also establish a pilot program to examine promising and innovative treatment and rehabilitation programs.
"Finally, this bill opens up drug treatment courts to veterans who otherwise qualify for veterans treatment court, but who live in a jurisdiction where a veterans court has not yet been established.
"In doing so, the bill ensures that the maximum number of veterans are offered the chance to get the support they need and to avoid incarceration.
"These are modest but important changes to the veterans treatment court program, and these improvements come at a time when our country stands at an inflection point.
"Nearly twenty years of war in Afghanistan are coming to an end. Over the course of the last two decades, millions of American servicemembers have served abroad fighting on behalf of our nation.
"As the final troops come home, we must answer the call—as a country—to support veterans and their families during any and all challenges that they face.
"As of this year, there are roughly 21 million veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Among these veterans, there are over one million people diagnosed with service-connected disabilities, in addition to the many more who may not have an official diagnosis.
"By some estimates, nearly one in ten veterans who return home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have an encounter with the criminal justice system.
"Of those incarcerated veterans surveyed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 48% of those in prison and 55% of those in jail reported that they had been told by a mental health professional that they had a mental health disorder.
"The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that the number of incarcerated veterans who had seen combat who reported mental health disorders was even higher—60% of those in prison and 67% of those in jail.
"Another study, conducted in the first decade of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, estimated that one-third of service members previously deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), major depression, or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
"Despite these somber statistics, there is some hope. Veteran-defendants who successfully complete veterans court programs can avoid jail time, receive needed treatment, and have their records expunged.
"That is why today we take up the 'Real Justice for Our Veterans Act of 2021.'
"The beneficiaries of improved and expanded veterans treatment court services are some of the most deserving of our fellow Americans. They have sacrificed on behalf of their country, sometimes returning home with unseen wounds of war.
"These programs provide veterans with holistic rehabilitative services that reduce recidivism rates and, ultimately, benefit individuals as well as the community at large."I am proud to be a cosponsor of this important legislation, and I thank Chairwoman Jackson Lee for her leadership as the author of this bill, and for her continued dedication and support to our veterans. I support this bill, and I urge its quick adoption by the Committee today."