The Veterans Assistance Project (VAP) is a voluntary referral service for veterans who come in contact with the court system and who may be in need of veterans services from their local Veterans Service Office. The goal is to acquire services and support to improve the quality of life for the men, women, and families who have made sacrifices in the defense of the United States. Available services can include mental health counseling, addiction services, legal services, and housing.
The New Jersey Veterans Assistance Project is a combined effort of the Judiciary, DMAVA, and DMHAS, to connect service members who come into contact with the courts and who need help with existing community services as well as mentors to address those issues.
It is not a diversionary program. The project is geared toward identifying veterans who have come into contact with the courts and referring them for available services. The referral is voluntary.
The project also involves a mentoring component that is being developed by the Adjunct General. During the assessment process, the local veterans service officer will determine whether the veteran could benefit from assignment of a mentor. If so, and if a mentor can be identified pursuant to the list developed by the Adjunct General, one will be assigned.
DMAVA provides a range of programs, assistance and support services to veterans and their families. DMAVA operates 16 VSOs that help veterans access federal and state benefits to which they may be entitled. For this project, once a veteran has been identified in the court system and volunteers to participate, the local VSO is notified and assists in identifying and providing the services needed by the veteran.
DMHAS is the state mental health authority that oversees and has primary responsibility for funding the public adult mental health system. In addition to various psychiatric hospitals and units, the division has contracts with more than 120 not-for-profit community providers. For this project the DMHAS and its service providers assist in identifying veterans and providing mental health services for those veterans in need of such services.
The cooperation of municipal prosecutors and public defenders, county jail personnel, health service providers, and superior court public defenders and prosecutors is also crucial. Each of these entities assists in identifying veterans and recognizing the need for services.
In 2008, the New Jersey Judiciary piloted the VAP in the Municipal Court and Superior Court Criminal Divisions in the Atlantic and Union counties. Within the first year, three additional counties had implemented the project and five others were in the planning stages.
The pilot project was designed to identify veterans as soon as possible after they entered the criminal justice system and when needed, provide referrals to the local VSO to connect those veterans to community resources to address the unique services they need. Those services could include a thorough assessment, identification of specific military entitlements, referrals for individual and family counseling, medical and legal assistance, educational and vocational training aid, and other community services.
The intention was to connect defendants with services to which they are entitled and to help alleviate negative factors that may have contributed to their involvement in the criminal courts.
Soon after the pilots in Atlantic and Union began, the Judiciary recognized that the VAP could be accessible to other court-involved veterans. Counties that were creating VAP planning teams and hosting meetings included representatives from the civil, family, municipal, and probation divisions. Today, the project is statewide and operates in all 21 counties.
Veterans are identified at the earliest possible point as they enter the court system. There are multiple points at which a referral to a local VSO can be initiated. For example, self-identification as a veteran is solicited when persons enter county jails, municipal and superior courts, and as existing probationers report to the probation department. Once a veteran has self-identified, a referral to the VSO can be prepared if the veteran volunteers to participate. Completed referral forms are directed to the criminal division, where the referral is entered into the VAP database and then electronically sent to the local VSO.
The Criminal Practice Division of the Administrative Office of the Courts provides programmatic support and assistance in the planning, implementation and operation of the VAP and collects and maintains monthly statistics that reflect the number of unique referrals forwarded to the local VSOs by each county. Each vicinage criminal division manager and staff provides local project management and coordination.
Bouffard, L.A. (May 2003). Examining the
Relationship Between Military Service and Criminal Behavior During the Vietnam Era: A Research Note.Criminology. Beverly Hills: May 2003. Vol. 41, Iss.
2; pg. 491, 20 pgs. Retrieved on April 16, 2009 from
Mumola, CJ. And Noonan, M.E. May, 2007. Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 2004. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. NCJ 217199. Retrieved on January 5, 2011 from
The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (2014). State of New Jersey Veterans Population by County and Locations of DMAVA Veterans Service Offices. Public Affairs Office, September 30, 2014.
New Jersey Veterans Guide (2006). Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Trenton, NJ
Pandiana, J. A., Rosenheck, R., Banks, S.M. (June 2003). Elevated Risk of Arrest for Veteran’s Administration Behavioral Health Service Recipients in Four Florida Counties. Law and Human Behavior. Jun 2003; 27, 3; Criminal Justice Periodicals, pg. 289. Retrieved on April 16, 2009 from
http://proquest.umi.com.proxy1.ncu.edu/pqdweb/?index=0&did=331767351&SrchMode= 2&sid=4&Fmt=10&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=12410365 15&clientId=52110
Rand Center for Military Health and Policy Research (April 17, 2008). Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery. Rand Corporation. Santa Monica, CA. Retrieved on May 8, 2009 from
U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (2002). Survey of Inmates in Local Jails. Conducted by U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Retrieved on May 7, 2010 from
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (November 6, 2008). The NSDUH Report: Major Depression Episode and Treatment for Depression among Veterans Aged 21 to 39. Rockville, MD.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (November 1, 2007). The NSDUH Report: Serious Psychological Distress and Substance Use Disorder among Veterans. Rockville, MD.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (November 10, 2005). The NSDUH Report: Alcohol Use and Alcohol-Related Risk Behaviors among Veterans. Rockville, MD.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (November 10, 2005). The NSDUH Report: Substance Use, Dependence, and Treatment among Veterans. Rockville, MD.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (November 11, 2004). The NSDUH Report: Male Veterans with Co-Occurring Serious Mental Illness and a Substance Use Disorder. Rockville, MD