Florida is home to more than 1.6 million veterans. So, it’s no surprise that Florida lawmakers passed several bills this session that benefit military veterans and active duty service members.
Among the bills agreed upon was the “T. Patt Maney Veterans Treatment Intervention Act.”
Named in honor of Okaloosa County Judge Maney, the bill authorizes each judicial circuit to set up a Veterans’ Court or program to handle the cases of veterans with psychological problems like substance abuse and PTSD or traumatic brain injury as a result of their military service.
“Under the program a judge may sentence these veterans and service members in a way that addresses the severity of the condition through services targeted to the individuals’ needs,” said Steve Murray, spokesman for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “It adds both misdemeanor and felony pretrial intervention programs as eligible treatment programs.”
Four Veterans Courts are already operating in Florida and will serve as a blueprint for other jurisdictions that have seen an increase of military veterans involved in the justice system.
“It’s an opportunity to identify early those veterans who are suffering from traumatic brain injury or some sort of substance abuse or psychological problem or post-traumatic stress disorder,” Murray said. “Catch them early and offer them assistance without sending them through the court system.”
In other legislation, lawmakers established a Purple Heart Day in Florida, authorized additional veteran-related license plates and expanded property tax cuts for deployed service members. Student veterans using the Post 9-11 GI bill are now able to participate in early registration for college courses and another bill gives them credit for some of their military training.