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Officials celebrate five years of Veterans Diversion Program in San Diego

Veterans PTSD
Posted at 6:08 PM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 21:08:24-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) — Officials in San Diego celebrated the five-year anniversary Thursday of the Veterans Diversion Program, which provides military veterans facing criminal charges with the opportunity to have those charges set aside following completion of the one-year program.

Qualified veterans who plead guilty can take part in the court- monitored program, which can involve substance abuse treatment, as well as employment and education counseling. Veterans taking part in the program must maintain or actively seek employment or schooling and appear before a judge on a monthly basis to inform the court of their progress.

A U.S. Attorney's Office statement said acceptance into the program is "not easy," and requires approval from a committee of 10 federal prosecutors, all of whom are veterans.

Though the U.S. Attorney's Office says it receives "dozens of applications every year," only 33 have graduated since the program began in 2016, while 21 are still participating.

This year, nine veterans from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and the National Guard graduated and saw their charges dismissed. Those nine were facing felony convictions, with some potentially looking at mandatory minimum sentences of up to 10 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said, "I feel strongly that many who have sacrificed so much for their country should be afforded a second chance when possible. Because of their sacrifices, the country owes them a debt. And being part of the Veterans Diversion Program is our office's small part in repaying that debt."