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Incarcerated Veterans Eligible for Benefits

Although focused on the Washington Department of Corrections, this story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencerhighlights an effort by the Veterans Health Administration to identify and assist incarcerated veterans:


The project was sparked two years ago after a Veterans Health Administration directive allowed health care benefits to be provided to veterans in work release. That federal change prompted officials at the state Department of Corrections to investigate what more could be done for the state’s veterans who are inmates.
‘Incarcerated veterans are uniquely qualified for benefits that can help them succeed once they complete their prison sentence,’ said Chad Lewis, a spokesman for the department. ‘They’ve earned these benefits, and the public is safer when they have housing and mental-health treatment.’
The trick, Lewis said, was identifying veterans in the system, something he said was ‘more difficult than you might expect.’[…]
Currently, the most recent national numbers on veterans in state and federal prison are from 2004. A 2007 Bureau of Justice Statistics report showed that in 2004, an estimated 140,000 veterans were in prison nationwide. Tracy Snell, a statistician for the Bureau of Justice Statistics, said they have been revamping the survey, and the plan is to do another one in 2013.
‘Really, no one knows for certain how many veterans are in the justice system right now,’ said Christopher Deutsch, a spokesman for Alexandria, Va.-based Justice for Vets, an organization that advocates for veteran treatment courts. But, ‘that’s starting to change.’[…]
Veterans face restrictions on receiving benefits while they are incarcerated, but can apply to have that money directed to their family. But if they continue to collect the full amount, they could leave prison tens of thousands of dollars in debt because they’ll be required to repay what they collected while incarcerated.