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Veterans Defense Program
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Defending Those Who Defended Us

The Veterans Defense Program (VDP) provides training, support, and legal assistance to promote zealous representation of veterans and service members in the state’s criminal and family court systems. The VDP assists public defense attorneys to take a treatment-oriented approach when representing veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and/or depression.

The VDP—the first program of its kind in the nation—was launched in response to a crisis situation where growing numbers of veterans with untreated, service-related mental health illnesses are lost in the criminal justice system. Studies have reported epidemic numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans with mental health illnesses. Previous research found significant numbers of Vietnam War veterans had undiagnosed PTSD. Sadly, approximately 112,000 veterans in New York State have mental health ailments, and studies show 50% are not receiving treatment. The U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) and Institute of Medicine report such veterans are at significant risk of arrest as their trauma symptoms can lead them to criminal conduct.

VDP Legal Director Art Cody, a retired Navy Captain and Afghanistan veteran, describes why the VDP was created. “The most vulnerable of our returning warriors, those who have been injured either physically or mentally and are now in the criminal or family justice system because of those injuries, are often somehow removed from those ‘troops’ that we support. It is difficult for a civilian judicial system to understand what it means to undergo rocket attacks 5 days a week for months on end or know what it is like to spend days crouched in a bunker in fear for your life. The VDP’s goal is to ensure that each veteran has an effective advocate; each veteran’s story is properly presented to a judge, jury, and prosecutor; and veterans get the treatment they need and deserve.”

The VDP’s legal advocacy takes a comprehensive client-centered approach, which can include mental health evaluation and treatment, counseling, and liaison with support groups. The VDP trains and assists defense attorneys representing veterans to encourage mitigation and treatment.

Trainings: See Upcoming Trainings below for future events.

Legal Assistance: Direct litigation and expert case-specific support are provided for strategic cases.

VDP Activities Report

Gary A. Horton, Director
Veterans Defense Program
23 Jackson St., Batavia, NY 14020


Upcoming Trainings

North Country Point-Person Training, Crowne Plaza, Lake Placid, NY, Veterans Defense Program Point-Person Training, September 28th & 29th, 2016

Oneida County Criminal Law Academy Training, Utica Campus of Mohawk Valley Community College, Utica, NY, October 7th, 2016

Downstate Point-Person Training, Legal Aid Society, Manhattan, NY, Veterans Defense Program Point-Person Training, October 20th & 21st, 2016

National Alliance on Mental Illness – NYS Statewide Conference VDP Workshop, Desmond Hotel, Albany, NY, November 11th, 2016

Previous Trainings

Buffalo Legal Aid CLE, Buffalo, NY, Veterans in the Criminal Justice System, June 17, 2016

Tompkins County CLE, Ithaca, NY, Defense of Veterans, June 20, 2016, with Tompkins County Assigned Counsel Program

Hudson Valley Point-Person Training, New Paltz, NY, Veterans Defense Program Point Person Training, 4/28/16 and 4/29/16

Queens Law Associates, Queens, NY, Best Practices for Representation of Veterans, March 8, 2016

Oneida County CLE, Utica, NY, 11/21/15, Veterans in the Criminal Justice System

5th & 6th Judicial Districts, Syracuse, NY, 10/15/15 & 10/16/15, Veterans Defense Program Point Person Training

Westchester County CLE, White Plains, NY, 9/18/15, Best Practices for Representation of Veterans

Rockland County CLE, New City, 9/17/15, Defending the Veteran Client

7th and 8th Judicial Districts, Batavia, NY, 8/13/15 & 8/14/15, Veterans Defense Program Point Person Training

NAACP Legal Defense Fund 36th Annual Capital Punishment Training Conference, Warrenton, VA, 7/9/15, Defending Veterans in Capital Cases

Syracuse University College of Law CLE, Syracuse, NY, 5/4/15, Defending the Veteran Client

Oneida County CLE, Utica, NY, 4/25/15, Using your Veteran Client’s Military Experience, Training and Culture in their Defense

Ontario County CLE, Canandaigua, NY, 3/20/15, Representation of the Veteran Client:
Understanding the Issues & Tips for Effective Advocacy

29th Annual Metropolitan Trainer CLE, New York City, NY, 3/14/15, Representing the Veteran From Arrest Through Disposition

For more information and assistance,
contact the VDP Office in Batavia, NY at 585-219-4862
Funding for trainings provided in part by the New York Bar Foundation

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