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Nationwide Efforts Attempt to Reintegrate Vets

In a growing number of communities, civilians and veterans are partnering to create new ways to help soldiers who have gotten into trouble after coming home.

Some have created jail diversion programs for returning vets. Others are forming rapid response teams with former combat veterans who show up when a combat veteran is in crisis.

Almost always, other combat veterans are behind these efforts. If they did not start the program, chances are they are involved in some capacity.

Many of these projects are aimed at "stopping the fuse before it gets lit," says Gordon Lane, a retired detective with the Syracuse Police Department in Syracuse, N.Y. He has engaged local lawyers, judges and prosecutors in an effort to help returning vets who have gotten into confrontations with the law.

Many returned soldiers experience bouts of anger and frustration, which sometimes manifest as bar fights, road rage and speeding. That is why Jeff Johnson, transition coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, says police and first responders are often included in these programs.

"Police are sometimes the first public entity to run into these veterans," Johnson says. "If they [officers] don't understand what they've been through in Iraq, they're not going to know why they're seeing somebody driving 100 miles an hour."

More and more police and criminal justice officials are also now turning to the 232 community-based Vet Centers around the country. These counseling centers are funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but operate independently of the VA.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Libby Lewis
Libby Lewis is an award-winning reporter on the National Desk whose pieces on issues of law, society, criminal justice, the military and social policy can be heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Day to Day, Weekend Edition Saturday, and other NPR shows.