Second Chances for Incarcerated Veterans


Last updated 5/10/2022 at 4pm | View PDF

We recently had Second Chance Month, courtesy of a presidential proclamation. Its goal was to “provide meaningful redemption and rehabilitation for formerly imprisoned persons.” It requires, per the proclamation, a holistic approach that eliminates long sentences, and provides job and education training during incarceration plus opportunities to enter the workforce after release.

What that means for veterans is that the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking action to help vets rejoin society after they’ve been in prison. In a mutual help program, the Bureau of Prisons, the Social Security Administration and VA benefits will work to ensure that the VA is notified within 30 days of release.

Help for imprisoned veterans includes:

— Expanding outreach into prisons to let veterans know about the services they can use and hook up with while still in prison.

— A web-based program that prison staff can use to identify veterans who will need VA services when they get out. The prison staff will need the veteran’s name, Social Security number, date of birth and so on to access the site: Veterans Reentry Search Service.

— Finding “justice-involved” veterans (through outreach by specialists) and encouraging them to access VA services. Those can include pre-release assessments and links to care for social, mental, medical and employment services.

To learn more about the health care services available to veterans released from prison, check the VA website at Scroll down to watch videos about supporting and assisting incarcerated veterans, second chances for incarcerated veterans and suicide prevention. Further down the page are email links for the specialists in each state.

Once they’re released from prison, veterans are at risk for homelessness, death from drug overdoses and suicide. Per a U.S. Sentencing Commission study, 67% of incarcerated veterans had mental health problems, and 55% had served in a combat zone. Of those, 41% reported post-traumatic stress and 67% had used illegal substances ... yet 62% had separated from the service with an honorable discharge.

(c) 2022 King Features Synd., Inc.


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