New program aimed at helping veterans

By: Ashley Harding

It's the first of its kind here in Lincoln. It's geared towards vets who've committed non-violent crimes. The hope is to get them treated, before the problem escalates.

For many soldiers on active duty, re-entering society once they're back home can be just as hard as the day they left. If they're suffering from a traumatic brain injury, or post-traumatic stress, it can be much harder.

It can even lead to minor trouble with the law. “You know that there's a good citizen, but something's happened and when they get in a little bit of trouble, if you can just catch them at the right moment you can keep that trouble from exacerbating,” said Former Adj. General, Roger Lempke.

To do that, the city has started a pre-trial diversion program. It's designed to help vets who've committed minor offenses. It pairs them up with the V. A. who then puts together a personalized treatment plan, whether it's for drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness.

If treatment is successful, their case is dismissed. Officials say it's of no cost to taxpayers, and could even save money down the line. “I'm very hopeful that it will, because, if you aren't out there committing crimes in the future, we're saving money,” said Lancaster County Attorney, Joe Kelly.

It's also highly selective. Interested vets must be able to prove that the trauma they experienced while serving was a factor when they committed the crime. Officials say we owe it to our vets. “They've gone through and done many things for us that the rest of us didn't have to. So, we owe it and we can do it, and we can make it work.”

Right now, officials estimate to work with about six to ten vets per year, but they think that number will go up.