The first Veterans Treatment Court was founded by the Honorable Robert Russell in Buffalo, New York in January, 2008, after he noticed an increase in the number of veterans appearing on his Drug Court and Mental Health Court dockets. Judge Russell saw firsthand the transformative power of military camaraderie when veterans on his staff assisted a veteran in one of his treatment courts, but also recognized that more could be done to ensure veterans were connected to benefits and treatment earned through military service.
Veterans Treatment Courts allow jurisdictions to serve a large segment of the justice-involved veteran population as opposed to business as usual – having all veterans appear before random judges who may or may not have an understanding of their unique problems. Because a Veterans Treatment Court judge handles numerous veterans' cases and is supported by a strong, interdisciplinary team, he or she is in a much better position to exercise discretion and effectively respond than a judge who only occasionally hears a case involving a veteran defendant. A Veterans Treatment Court judge better understands the issues that a veteran may be struggling with, such as substance addiction, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and military sexual trauma. A Veterans Treatment Court judge is also more familiar with the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefit Administration, State Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Service Organizations, and volunteer Veteran Mentors and how they all can assist veteran defendants.