Veteran Treatment Courts Offer Alternatives

vet treatment court

By Debbie Gregory.

Many military veterans have had life experiences that are very different from their civilian contemporaries. Depending on when and where they served, veterans may have experienced a vast array of physical, emotional and psychological injuries.

Untreated, unhealed emotional and psychological injuries lead to further veteran illnesses, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. These illnesses can lead to substance abuse, the commission of crimes, and even suicide. Special Veterans Treatment Courts seek to provide veterans suffering from these issues assistance that will help keep them from slipping into real legal problems.

Documented evidence suggests that a significant number of Vietnam veterans experienced severe problems adjusting to civilian life. So too, have many more recently minted veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Veterans Court offers opportunity for the VA, local support organizations, and local communities to offer treatment as an alternative to time in jail.

The first Veterans’ Court in the U.S. was established in 2008 in Buffalo, New York. Veterans’ Courts are modeled after Drug and Mental Health Courts, in that they promote sobriety, recovery and stability through strict court appointed measures.

Usually Veterans Courts hear cases involving misdemeanor charges, and veterans who choose to participate are assessed by a mental health professional and their treatment needs are determined. Most of them receive treatment through the VA’s health network.

Veterans Treatment Courts increase the likelihood of successful rehabilitation through early and continuous judicially-supervised treatment.

Veterans Treatment Courts also provide veterans with services and benefits that aid in their successful transition back into society.

Below are some resources that may assist any veterans in need of legal assistance:

Justice For Veterans

National Association of Veteran Advocates

American Bar Association Military Pro Bono Project

Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery Program

California Veterans Legal Institute

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Pets for Vets- Making Matches, Saving Lives


By Debbie Gregory.

Dogs have always been called “man’s best friend” as they are known for their loyalty and companionship. Dogs seem to be able to understand human emotions and respond appropriately, sensing happiness, sadness and fear.

Voltaire wrote, “It seems that nature has given the dog to man for his defense and for his pleasure. Of all the animals it is the most faithful: it is the best friend man can have.”

As an animal trainer with a master’s in anthrozoology, Clarissa Black’s trip to a local VA Hospital with her dog, Bear, changed her life. After seeing how the veterans responded to Bear, Black decided to use her skills and resources to train rescue dogs for America’s veterans, especially those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, anxiety and depression. And so, Pets for Vets was born.

In addition to helping the veterans, the program rescues shelter dogs from around the country, a win-win for all.

The non-profit organization utilizes an extensive matchmaking process in order to make sure that the veteran and dog are a good fit. Once the pet has been selected, it receives obedience training and learns the skills that will benefit its new owner’s condition.

Dogs trained to assist people with PTSD learn a range of tasks. Some dogs can be taught to recognize early signs of anxiety in their partners and to give an alert, thereby re-focusing their partner, who can then use strategies they have been taught to cope with the situation.

Pets for Vets is not only helping shelter dogs find the love they deserve, but also it’s a way to say thank you to our country’s veterans for their service and dedication, because sometimes the best medicine is a cold nose and a warm, furry friend.

 For more information on Pets for Vets or to make a donation, please visit

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Love Hormone Oxytocin May Help With PTSD and Anxiety


By Debbie Gregory.

Hormone and gene therapies for anxiety and PTSD could be on the way.  Oxytocin, often called the love hormone due to its crucial role in mother-child relationships, social bonding, and intimacy, may enhance compassion of people suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.)

Compassion is an outcome of emotional of empathy, and is mediated through different areas of the brain. The difficulty in the ability to feel compassion may be due to problems in the ability to identify, understand, and empathize with the other’s state of distress, i.e., difficulties in emotional and cognitive empathy.

A recent study found that a single intra-nasal dose of Oxytocin enhances compassion, both in patients with PTSD and in healthy participants – but only toward women, while it does not affect compassion toward men. From an evolutionary perspective one of the Oxytocin roles is to moderate pro-social behaviors, including compassion, mainly toward the survival of weaker and vulnerable individuals within groups, including females, pregnant females and offspring, who cannot defend themselves in nature, in light of the stress.

Scientists are also studying a number of other promising approaches to reducing fear, including treatments based on an improved genetic understanding of fear and anxiety. The gene encoding for a compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) could be particularly important.

The prospect of BDNF gene therapy is also being investigated.

“BDNF provides some of the most powerful effects that I’ve ever seen in enhancing fear extinction,” said Raül Andero Galí, a research associate in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University. He added, ““BDNF provides some of the most powerful effects that I’ve ever seen in enhancing fear extinction.”

While prescription BDNF isn’t on the immediate horizon, treating anxiety and PTSD with a combination of oxytocin and fear extinction therapy seems to be a promising option.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.



Special offer for OEF/OIF Veterans in San Diego, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and New York City

“After my first week of meditation I was able to sleep. My day to day functions became clearer. My depression has improved daily and my aggression has vanished. It’s like I was living in a fog of war and TM cleared the fog, allowing me to see things clearly.”—OEF Vet

Veterans of OEF/OIF are now eligible to receive a full scholarship to learn the evidence-based Transcendental Meditation technique—TM. Published research has shown that the benefits of regular TM practice include:

  • Reduction in PTSD, anxiety and depression
  • Decrease in insomnia
  • Improved quality of life
  • Reduced use of psychotropic medication

Veterans can learn this simple and powerful technique through a four-day course, consisting of a 90-minute class each day. The technique is practiced for 20 minutes, twice a day, sitting comfortably in a chair, and requires no change in beliefs or lifestyle. Classes are available in San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC.

Full scholarships for OEF/OIF veterans are available through a grant from David Lynch Foundation. If you are interested in learning, please contact Kathy Connor at [email protected] or 212-644-9880 ext. 209 as soon as possible. The funding for these scholarships is limited, so please apply soon to take advantage of this special opportunity.

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