Veterans in the Criminal Justice System: Defending Conditions of the Mind

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)1 and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)2 are two notable conditions3 that can result from military service.4 And they have become particularly important in understanding and defending veterans involved in the criminal justice system.5 At the same time, specialty courts6 and legal projects7 specific to veterans are gaining traction. Overall, these developments highlight the ongoing dialogue between criminal justice and medical science in fairly adjudicating the responsibility and mitigating the punishment of veterans charged with crimes.

This article surveys recent and notable studies and guides, web resources for further research, and directories for legal assistance specific to veterans.


  • Porter v. McCollum, 130 S. Ct. 447 (2009)
    “Petitioner George Porter is a veteran who was both wounded and decorated for his active participation in two major engagements during the Korean War; his combat service unfortunately left him a traumatized, changed man. His commanding officer’s moving description of those two battles was only a fraction of the mitigating evidence that his counsel failed to discover or present during the penalty phase of his trial in 1988. In this federal postconviction proceeding, the District Court held that Porter’s lawyer’s failure to adduce that evidence violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and granted his application for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed, on the ground that the Florida Supreme Court’s determination that Porter was not prejudiced by any deficient performance by his counsel was a reasonable application of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Like the District Court, we are persuaded that it was objectively unreasonable to conclude there was no reasonable probability the sentence would have been different if the sentencing judge and jury had heard the significant mitigation evidence that Porter’s counsel neither uncovered nor presented. We therefore grant the petition for certiorari in part and reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.”

  • Case Annotations and Resources Military Service USSG S5h1.11 Departures and Booker Variances (USSC 2012)
    “This document contains case annotations to federal judicial opinions that involve USSGS5H1.11 (Military, Civic, Charitable, or Public Service; Employment-Related Contributions; Record of Prior Good Works (Policy Statement)) departures and Booker variances related to a defendant’s military service. Included in this document is a brief introduction discussing how courts have recognized military service and mental health issues relating to combat service, followed by annotations to some relevant case law. An appendix provides links to helpful internet sites.”

  • War Torn, NY Times, Jan. 13, 2008
    “A series of articles and multimedia about veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have committed killings, or been charged with them, after coming home.” See War Torn: Cases “The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war.”


  • Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court (NVF 2012)
    “The National Veterans Foundation is preparing to launch the Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court. This 700+ page publication will offer defense and plaintiff attorneys, judges, expert witnesses, and law schools the contributions of leading experts from the fields of law, medicine and mental health and address issues surrounding PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury), substance abuse, and other combat-related issues. The current release date is planned for June.” Click here for more information.

  • Defending Those Who Defend Us: Key Considerations When Representing Veterans (Office of Defender Services)(PPT)
    “I. Military Service as Grounds for a Reduced Sentence A. The Supreme Court’s view of military service and mitigation B. November 2010 Guideline Amendment C. Recent District Court decisions granting relief to veterans D. Relevant news articles II. Key Considerations for Practitioners A. Gathering vital information about your veteran B.A primer on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) C. Telling your client’s story.”

  • Emerging Issues: Returning Veterans, PTSD and Other Injuries, and Their Impact on the Criminal Justice System (NCSTL 2008)(PPTs)
    “‘PTSD and Other Injuries’ is an important, high-interest topic which unfortunately represents an ever-growing national problem. Defendant veterans who experience physical and psychological injuries often find themselves facing criminal charges when they react inappropriately in civilian life. Professionals from healthcare, law, military and other government agencies, as well as citizen groups, are beginning to work together to help identify and respond to combat vets returning to civilian life. The aim is to assist the vets in their transition to civilian life and avoid criminal behavior. The presentation addressed the most commonly experienced physical and psychological injuries, available recovery resources, the judicial response to the veterans, and military resources for reserve and active duty personnel and dependents.”

  • Tips for Persuasive Criminal Defense of Your Client Suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Office of Defender Services 2008)
    This guide outlines strategies and notes resources for defenders representing veterans in federal court on criminal charges.


  • Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery (Rand Corp. 2008)
    “The study discussed in this monograph focuses on post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, and traumatic brain injury, not only because of current high-level policy interest but also because, unlike the physical wounds of war, these conditions are often invisible to the eye, remaining invisible to other servicemembers, family members, and society in general. All three conditions affect mood, thoughts, and behavior; yet these wounds often go unrecognized and unacknowledged. The effect of traumatic brain injury is still poorly understood, leaving a large gap in knowledge related to how extensive the problem is or how to address it.”

  • Veterans Health Administration’s Treatment of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury Among Recent Combat Veterans (CBO 2012)
    “Through September 2011, about 740,000 veterans from overseas contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan had been treated by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). That number is slightly more than half of all recent veterans eligible for care by VHA. VHA spent about $2 billion in fiscal year 2010 to provide medical care to all recent combat veterans. One in Four Recent Combat Veterans Treated at VHA from 2004 to 2009 Had a Diagnosis of PTSD; 7 Percent Had a Diagnosis of TBI”

  • Veterans in Prison or Jail (BJS 2000)
    “Presents data from the 1997 Surveys of Inmates in Adult State and Federal Correctional Facilities and the 1996 Survey of Inmates in Local Jails concerning inmates’ prior military service. Numeric tables present data on branch of military service, periods of wartime military service, combat duty, and type of military discharge. Tables include comparisons of veteran and nonveteran inmates’ current offenses, criminal histories, sentence lengths, and basic demographics such as gender, race/Hispanic origin, and age. This BJS Special Report also presents numeric tables on inmates’ reports of prior drug and alcohol abuse, substance abuse treatment, and mental health services, as well as various socioeconomic data, including employment and income at time of arrest, and prior experiences of homelessness.”

  • Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 2004 (BJS 2007)
    “Using the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, this report presents data on the military and criminal backgrounds of incarcerated veterans, uses new measures to describe their substance abuse and dependence histories, and provides a detailed measure of their mental health problems. It compares incarceration rates for veterans and nonveterans in the U.S. population and describes trends from 1986 to 2004 in the prevalence of military service among inmates. The report also examines characteristics of incarcerated veterans who served in the 1990-91 Gulf War and the Afghanistan/Iraq operations since 2001.”


  • Another Emerging “Storm”: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with PTSD in the Criminal Justice System, 5 Just. Pol’y J. 1 (2008)
    “America seems to have moved to a position in history where we are captivated with thoughts of military power. Not since World War II has America been engaged in combat along two theaters of combat operation – Iraq and Afghanistan. We now have extended our military prowess and declared war against global terrorism, which means the number of potential combat front lines is impossible to determine. The initial blowback from such a strategy seems to be an economic catastrophe at home. This article focuses on another potential blowback – an emerging storm that encompasses the war at home that Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans are beginning to experience. The lessons from the aftermath of the Vietnam are available for all to review. A disinterest acknowledging those lessons seems to be prevailing. This article is written as evidence for the men and women who serve, or have served, in Afghanistan and Iraq that they have support for their second war – the war that begins when they leave the military. This article also challenges researchers and service providers to begin preparation to support these veterans.”

  • Attorneys as First-Responders: Recognizing the Destructive Nature of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder on the Combat Veteran’s Legal Decision-Making Process, 202 Mil. L. Rev. 144 (2009)
    “The PTSD First Responder frame proposed by this article considers PTSD’s effects on a client’s decision-making before, and in addition to, consideration of the substantive legal issues in the case. At a minimum, knowledge of PTSD symptoms will enable the attorney to identify the need for referral. Furthermore, conscious awareness of the many ways in which PTSD can distort legal advice will enable the attorney to anticipate conditions that are likely to aggravate PTSD symptoms or the need for additional measures to improve the client’s evaluation of legal information. This article, which is the first in a series, will provide an overview of major decisional impairments and how they can be identified during the course of legal counseling. Whether solutions to these problems originate with the attorney, a mental health provider, or the collaboration of both professionals, only this new perspective will meet the unique demand for ‘interdisciplinary’ and ‘collaborative’ action to address the mental health needs of a growing population of combat veterans.”

  • Bringing Baghdad into the Courtroom: Should Combat Trauma In Veterans Be Part of the Criminal Justice Equation?, 24 Crim. Just. 4 (2009)(abstract only)
    “In earlier eras it was known as nostalgia, shell-shock, combat fatigue. Today psychiatrists call it PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder—a long-term and debilitating aftereffect of war. One study estimates 300,000 veterans will return from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat-related PTSD. Some of them will commit violent crimes. In this article the author discusses the use of PTSD as a defense—its advantages and disadvantages; its history and its current acceptance by juries and judges; case law; comparisons to the insanity plea and self-defense; and its use as a mitigating factor at sentencing.”

  • Combat Veterans, Mental Health Issues, and the Death Penalty: Addressing the Impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, 77 Fordham L. Rev. 2955 (2009)
    “More than 1.5 million Americans have participated in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past seven years. Some of these veterans have subsequently committed capital crimes and found themselves in our nation’s criminal justice system. This Essay argues that combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury at the time of their offenses should not be subject to the death penalty. Offering mitigating evidence regarding military training, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury presents one means that combat veterans may use to argue for their lives during the sentencing phase of their trials. Alternatively, Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons offer a framework for establishing a legislatively or judicially created categorical exclusion for these offenders, exempting them from the death penalty as a matter of law. By understanding how combat service and service-related injuries affect the personal culpability of these offenders, the legal system can avoid the consequences of sentencing to death America’s mentally wounded warriors, ensuring that only the worst offenders are subject to the ultimate punishment.”

  • Coming Home: Accommodating the Special Needs of Military Veterans to the Criminal Justice System, 7 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 563 (2010)
    “Large numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are returning home with serious mental and emotional problems. In response to their impact on the criminal justice system, several jurisdictions have established veterans courts. Patterned after the early intervention and intensive supervision protocols of drug courts, these courts are designed to address the particular needs of these veterans. Focusing on nonviolent offenses and relying on a treatment rather than punishment model, early reports suggest the efforts are working to address the profound stress many veterans have experienced and the difficult adjustment to civilian life they face when returning home.”

  • Criminal Behavior and PTSD: An Analysis, Nat’l Center for PTSD (2010)
    “At times the symptoms of PTSD may contribute to the likelihood that persons with the disorder will get in trouble with others or with the law. PTSD affects the way in which individuals perceive, process, and respond to people and situations (1). Trauma survivors with PTSD may be more prone to feeling threatened in many situations, even when the feeling of threat is not warranted. Some may act impulsively or go to extremes to protect themselves.”

  • Forensic Validity of a PTSD Diagnosis, Nat’l Center for PTSD (2010)
    “Many types of civil and criminal court cases and litigation involve claims of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The diagnostic validity of these claims can impact directly upon affect the defense, plaintiff, or prosecutorial legal strategies, depending upon the nature of used in the case. It is important, therefore, for attorneys and others involved in the legal system to be able to assess the validity of PTSD evaluations and diagnoses. Although only an expert in PTSD can complete an in-depth review of the diagnostic methodology used in a case and the diagnostic methodology, it is helpful if those conducting initial reviews know some basic facts about PTSD and what constitutes a sound diagnosis.”

  • Last Stand? The Criminal Responsibility of War Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 85 Ind. L.J. 87 (2010)
    “As more psychologically-scarred troops return from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, society’s focus on and concern for these troops and their psychological disorders has increased. With this increase and with associated studies confirming the validity of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis and the genuine impact of PTSD on the behavior of war veterans, greater weight may be given to the premise that PTSD is a mental disorder that provides grounds for a ‘mental status defense’, such as insanity, a lack of mens rea, or self-defense. Although considerable impediments remain, given the current political climate, Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans are in a better position to succeed in these defenses than Vietnam War veterans were a generation ago. This Article explores the prevalence and impact of PTSD, particularly in war veterans, the relevance of this disorder to the criminal justice system, and the likely evolution of related mental status defenses as Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans return from combat.”

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder & The Military Justice System, 79 Miss. L.J. 485 (2010)
    “This article, in the main, addresses how the Military Justice system deals — and ought to deal — with military members who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and commit crimes. It begins with a thorough overview of PTSD in the current military, and then moves on to analyze the topic through three particular lenses: punishing versus treating military members who suffer from PTSD in light of Retributivst theory; psychotherapist-patient privilege in the military as affected by the recent restructuring of military psychiatry; and how military courts’ own oft-ignored tradition of rights protection affects these issues. The paper concludes provisionally that, due to the nature of military society, the military must both punish and treat its members who commit crimes in order to have the best chance of reintegrating those members into the community; and that, while Department of Defense directives and other military law has arguably eliminated the psychotherapist-patient privilege in the military, military courts have an opportunity to restore and maintain the privilege in light of those courts’ tradition of protecting the interests and rights of military members.”

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on Trial, 190/191 Mil. L. Rev. 67 (2006-07)(abstract only)
    “After examining PTSD, first historically and then medically, this article will address the prevalence of PTSD within various populations. The focus of the article will then shift to its main emphasis, an analysis of PTSD within the military courtroom. This analysis will include the impact of PTSD on the accused’s competency to stand trial, as well as its impact on the merits of the case as a defense for lack of mental responsibility or a claim of partial mental responsibility. The effects of these findings will also be discussed. Finally, the article will focus on the other areas of trial where PTSD can become a factor, such as when questioning a witness suffering from PTSD or when presenting PTSD as extenuation evidence during pre-sentencing. The final result is a resource for judge advocates to consult when preparing for a trial that in any way involves PTSD.”

  • PTSD and the Law: Update, 22 PTSD Research Q. 1 (2011)
    “Thirteen years ago, this journal published ‘PTSD and the Law’ (Pitman & Sparr, 1998), a review that examined developments and state of the art in law, forensic evaluation, and expert testimony, providing specific forensic guidance that continues to be critically relevant in today’s courtroom. At the time, PTSD was characterized as a growth stock in the world of mental illnesses. Although more recently Sparr and Pitman (2007) note a waning enthusiasm for PTSD as the basis of a criminal defense, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a renewed emphasis on rehabilitation and treatment in criminal justice institutions beginning in the late 1990s (Cullen, 2005) have revived interest in PTSD developments in the criminal justice area. This review briefly updates and confirms elements of the legal domains of the 1998 review and presents an outline within which to view the current and limited status of knowledge of PTSD intervention within forensic settings.”

  • Veterans with PTSD in the Justice System, Nat’l Center for PTSD (2010)
    “In recent years, programs have been developed to avoid unnecessary incarceration of Veterans who have deployed to war and subsequently developed mental health problems. The programs aim to assist Veterans who become involved in the justice system to get treatment for mental health problems that may exist. These programs are especially needed given the numbers of Veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.”

  • Veterans’ Courts and Criminal Responsibility: A Problem Solving History & Approach to the Liminality of Combat Trauma, SSRN (2010)
    “In September 2010, a federal judge dismissed a criminal case involving a veteran accused of assaulting a federal police officer to allow the case to be heard by the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court, a division of Buffalo City Court. For those involved in veterans’ advocacy and treatment, the case is significant for a number of reasons. First, it is the first criminal case nationwide to be transferred from federal court to a local veterans treatment court where the goal is to treat – rather than simply punish – those facing the liminal effects of military combat. Second, the case reignites the still unsettled controversy over whether problem-solving courts generally, and veterans courts specifically, unfairly shift the focus of justice away from the retributive interests of victims to the rehabilitative interests of perpetrators. Third, the case serves as a signal reminder to all justice system stakeholders, including parties, judges, attorneys, and treatment professionals, of the potential benefits of sidestepping courtroom adversity in favor of a coordinated effort that seeks to ameliorate victim concerns while advancing treatment opportunities for veterans suffering from combat-related trauma. This chapter explores these issues in light of the history of combat-related trauma and the development of veterans’ treatment courts around the country.”

  • Veterans’ Lawyer as Counselor: Using Therapeutic Jurisprudence to Enhance Client Counseling for Combat Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, 186 Mil. L. Rev. 185 (2009)
    “This article challenges a common approach to client counseling. All too often, attorneys adopt a ‘too much information’ perspective when presented with a client’s emotional baggage. Some may be brilliant on matters of legal interpretation but, nevertheless, incompetent in the ways they relate to clients. Many lawyers have begun to recognize the values of an enhanced approach to client counseling where they must address emotional influences as part of their legal role. In certain areas of law, courts have mandated this role in the provision of legal services. They have incorporated ‘therapeutic jurisprudence,’ as a baseline for representation. As a subset of the comprehensive law movement, therapeutic jurisprudence is a philosophy of law practice in which the attorney is ‘sensitive to the therapeutic and antitherapeutic consequences that sometimes flow from legal rules, legal procedures, and the roles of legal actors.'”

  • Warrior Returns: Struggling to Address Criminal Behavior by Veterans with PTSD, 3 Geo. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 541 (2005)(abstract only)
    “The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have lasted longer than initially anticipated, and as each day goes by, more and more young Americans are risking their lives in combat. The severity of the trauma associated with warfare will undoubtedly have a profound effect on these soldiers. As members of the military return home, experiences of war will bleed over into civilian life as combatants readjust and struggle to deal with the psychological price of combat. It seems likely that criminal courts will confront the connection between active combat and the commission of crimes, as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferers engage in dangerous behavior. This paper explores the causal link between the physical and psychological symptoms of PTSD and the commission of crimes by veterans. Despite the presence of this causal connection, veterans who engage in serious criminal behavior will probably not successfully mount insanity defenses, due to the unpopularity of insanity defenses, the difficulty of establishing legal causation when mental disorders result from social stimuli, and the fear of violence that stems from the lack of a cure for PTSD. Part I introduces the ways humans react to traumatic events, and Part II focuses on the potential among veterans for developing PTSD. Part III discusses the physical manifestations and symptoms of PTSD, Part IV identifies the behavioral effects of PTSD, and Part V examines the implications of PTSD in the courtroom. Part V concludes that returning veterans with PTSD will be unlikely to mount a successful legal defense to criminal actions with ties to PTSD.”


  • Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM)
    “The Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM) is a federal medical research program that has transformed collaborative interactions between the Uniformed Services University, the National Institutes of Health and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to improve the understanding of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

  • Co-Occurring Disorders and Military Justice (SAMHSA)
    “More than two million members of the U.S. Armed Forces have been deployed since 2001 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. Many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have developed post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and alcohol or substance use disorders after returning from deployment. Combat exposure, multiple deployments, and reduced time between deployments are some of the factors that contribute to the development of behavioral health disorders. Family strife, high unemployment, lack of treatment access, and stigma associated with services only increases the distress experienced by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans represent ten percent of inmates in state prisons and local jails. Many have mental and substance use disorders.”

  • Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC)
    “The mission of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) is to serve active duty military, their beneficiaries, and veterans with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) through state-of-the-art clinical care, innovative clinical research initiatives and educational programs. DVBIC fulfills this mission through ongoing collaboration with military, VA and civilian health partners, local communities, families and individuals with TBI.” See DVBIC Bibliography.

  • Justice For Vets: The National Clearinghouse for Veterans Treatment Courts (NADCP)
    “Justice For Vets is the nation’s only Veterans Organization exclusively committed to ensuring that veterans involved in the criminal justice system have access to Veterans Treatment Courts and the benefits, services and treatment they have earned.”

  • National Center for PTSD
    “We are the center of excellence for research and education on the prevention, understanding, and treatment of PTSD. Our Center has seven divisions across the country. Although we provide no direct clinical care, our purpose is to improve the well-being and understanding of American Veterans. We conduct cutting edge research and apply resultant findings to: ‘Advance the Science and Promote Understanding of Traumatic Stress.'”

  • National Veterans Foundation (NVF)
    “Our Mission: To Serve the crisis management, information and referral needs of all U.S. Veterans and their families through: Management and operation of the nation’s only toll-free helpline for all veterans and their families. Public awareness programs that shine a consistent spotlight on the needs of America’s veterans. Outreach services that provide veterans and families in need with food, clothing, transportation, employment, and other essential resources. The founder of the National Veterans Foundation, Floyd ‘Shad’ Meshad has been working with Veterans since 1970. Meshad was a Medical Service Officer during the Vietnam War, where he counseled soldiers in the field who were suffering from a multitude of psychological and emotional problems resulting from their experiences in combat, including what would later become known as ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,’ or PTSD.”

  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Traumatic Brain Injury Information Page (NINDS)
    “Table of Contents: What is Traumatic Brain Injury? Is there any treatment? What is the prognosis? What research is being done? Clinical Trials Organizations Additional resources from MedlinePlus”

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (APA)
    “PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is an anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident or natural disaster. People with PTSD may relive the event via intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares; avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma; and have anxious feelings they didn’t have before that are so intense their lives are disrupted. Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology.”

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Mayo Clinic)
    “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time and taking care of yourself, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely shake up your life. In a case such as this, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder. Getting treatment as soon as possible after post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms develop may prevent long-term post-traumatic stress disorder.”

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (NIMH)
    “In the last decade, the United States has experienced a series of man-made and natural disasters. Large numbers of people in this country have been exposed to potentially traumatic events. This video focuses on NIMH research in the areas of traumatic stress reactions and specifically mental health issues among U.S. service members. What we learn from the military experience can help us understand stress risk predictions for the entire population.”

  • PTSD & The Criminal Justice System Bibliography (NCSTL)
    References to books and articles concerning both psychiatric and medical aspects of PTSD and related conditions as it related to criminal justice.

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (CDC)
    “Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious public health problem in the United States. Each year, traumatic brain injuries contribute to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability. Recent data shows that, on average, approximately 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury annually. . . . CDC’s research and programs work to prevent TBI and help people better recognize, respond, and recover if a TBI occurs.”


  • ABA Home Front
    “Our Directory of Programs can help you find legal help. Focused on those resources and programs specializing in helping military families, the Directory will help you find legal services in or near your community. Each state-by-state listing details any income or service-based restrictions. This is the first stop military families should make when shopping for an attorney.” See Directory of Programs and Additional Resources for Military Families.

  • ABA Military Pro Bono Project
    “The ABA Military Pro Bono Project accepts case referrals from military attorneys on behalf of junior-enlisted, active-duty military personnel and their families with civil legal problems, and it places these cases with pro bono attorneys where the legal assistance is needed. The Project is also the platform for Operation Stand-By, through which military attorneys may seek attorney-to-attorney advice to further assist their servicemember clients.”

  • Meeting the Challenge of Providing Civil Legal Assistance to Military and Veteran Households (NLADA 2010)
    “Most of the attached materials were prepared for a 2010 NLADA Annual Conference sessions entitled ‘Meeting the Challenge of Providing Civil Legal Assistance to Military and Veteran Households’. We have also included the 1979 LSC study on the legal needs of veterans, together with relevant appendices.”

  • Veterans Law Clinic (Widener Law School)
    “The number of veterans law clinics at ABA accredited law schools has grown significantly in recent years. Still, only a handful of the 200 ABA-accredited law schools have established clinics focusing on the legal needs of veterans. Like clinics in civil law, environmental law, or criminal law, veterans law clinics provide a valuable learning opportunity for students while serving a critical local need. Students in veterans law clinics learn substantive veterans law, a discrete and timely area of administrative law, while developing key client representation and advocacy skills. For more information about the wide of range of legal services veterans law clinics can provide, contact the Veterans Law Clinic at Widener Law School or visit the websites of one of the other veterans law clinics at a law school below.” See Start a Veterans Clinic and Veterans Law Clinics.

  • Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program
    “The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (Pro Bono Program) was created in 1992, with a dual mission: to provide assistance to unrepresented veterans or their family members who have filed appeals at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Court); and to recruit and train attorneys in the then fledgling field of veterans’ law.” See Veterans Law Clinics.

1 “PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can happen after exposure to a life-threatening event. Life-threatening events can include: combat, car accidents, natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, or tornadoes, physical or sexual assault, or seeing someone else badly hurt.” About TBI and PTSD in Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM).

2 “TBI can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the nature and extent of the injury. A concussion is an example of mild TBI. Most cases of TBI (over 75%) are mild.” About TBI and PTSD in Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM).

3 “Mild TBI is not well defined and does not always result in obvious impairments. Many of its signs and symptoms overlap with those of PTSD. PTSD and mild TBI can occur together but they don’t have to. In a combat zone, it is possible that the very same event that causes a concussion or mild brain injury could also be life-threatening and lead to PTSD.” About TBI and PTSD in Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM). See generally TBI & PTSD Quick Facts (Force Health Protection & Readiness Policy and Programs).

4 See generally One in Five Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Suffer from PTSD or Major Depression, RAND Corp. Press Rel., Apr. 17, 2008.

5 See, e.g., Veteran Acquitted on Drug Case, N.Y. Times, Sept. 20, 1980, sect. 1, at 9 (“The syndrome [Vietnam syndrome or post-traumatic stress] is recognized as an emotional illness by the American Psychiatric Association and the Veterans Administration. Psychiatrists say victims seek to relive the danger and excitement of combat experiences. The syndrome has been used successfully by defendants in trials in California and Pennsylvania, but today’s verdict was the first acquittal in connection with a nonviolent, premeditated crime.”). The tolls associated with serving in war have been recognized for a long time, but not well understood until the advent of modern psychology and medicine. See, e.g., Anna Mulrine, Sgt. Robert Bales and Multiple Tours of Duty: How Many Is Too Many?, Christian Sci. Monitor, Mar. 23, 2012 (“The tremendous burden that battle places on soldiers – and the notion that it can push some to their breaking point – has long been one of the fatalistically accepted miseries of war. During the Civil War, this breaking point was called, alternately, ‘soldier’s heart’ and ‘exhausted heart.’ In World War I, it was ‘war neurosis,’ ‘gas hysteria,’ and ‘shell shock.’ Sigmund Freud had his own theory about the ‘inner conflict’ between a soldier’s ‘peace ego’ and its ‘parasitic double,’ the ‘war ego.'”).

6 See Missouri Looks to Join States Expanding Veteran Courts, News Tribune, Apr. 15, 2012; Nicole Santa Cruz, O.C.’s Combat Veterans Court Helps Ex-Warriors Fix Their Lives, Los Angeles Times, Mar. 26, 2012; Michael M. Phillips, Convicted Combat Vets Watch Each Other’s Backs to Stay Out of Prison, Wall. St. J., Mar. 23, 2012; Neale Gulley, Nation’s First Veterans Court Counts Its Successes, Reuters, Jan. 9, 2011.

7 See, e.g., Simon Akam, Back Home, and in Need of Support, N.Y. Times, Jul. 7, 2009 (“A new pilot program called the Veterans Project, announced on Tuesday and set to begin in Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau County, aims to help keep them out of prison. . . .The project — a collaboration between county prosecutors, the Department of Veterans Affairs and health care providers — will try to divert veterans who commit nonviolent crimes away from prison while helping them with underlying issues like homelessness or substance abuse.”).

8 In addition to the traditional sources for counsel in criminal cases, there are a growing body of resources, e.g., bar association projects, pro bono programs or law school clinics, directed at the needs of active servicemembers, veterans and their families in both civil and criminal matters.

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