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What are Veteran Treatment Courts and how do they help?

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What are Veteran Treatment Courts and how do they help?

I host a radio weekly internet radio show on the VoiceAmerica Empowerment Channel called Life Altering Events (https://www.voiceamerica.com/show/3902/life-altering-events). People often ask me what exactly is a life altering event? I tell them this – It can be something we choose or something that is thrust upon us that dramatically alters the trajectory of our life.

On September 10, 2019 we will have a discussion about the Veterans Treatment Court program. My guests will be the Honorable David Abbott, presiding justice over the Sacramento, CA Veterans Treatment Court and Cindy Baldwin, a consultant with the California State Senate on Veterans Affairs Committee.

The choice to enter the military is a major life altering events. Most men and women enter the service between the ages of 18 to 22. At this young age, they have not had many life experiences. For many it is their first time away from home.  The military gives them a sense of purpose, a mission and provides self-esteem as they serve an important role within an organization. Some will stay and make the military their career. Most will not.

Given that the United States have been involved in war(s) or police actions or peace keeping missions, (call it whatever you like), for most of the 21st century these young service men and women have been exposed to many horrendous situations. They have seen and/or done things that no one should ever see let alone 18 to 22 year olds.

When their time of service is over, they go from being part of something bigger than themselves, something that give them a purpose as a warrior back  to civilian life as an unemployed and often hard to employ individual with no real purpose. The vast majority of our service men and women come home very different than when they joined. Many are physically disabled. A large number come home with some type of addiction. Almost all have suffered a major trauma such as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Sebastian Junger writes in his book “Tribe,” Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. This is particularly true for returning veterans. Their homecoming is better than it was for Vietnam veterans. Most people are quick to say “Thank you for your service,” which makes most veterans feel good for a moment, but what they really need is a job, a purpose, and to become part of a new community.

So our heroes try to assimilate back into a society where, at least initially, the cards are stacked against them. Many need help and treatment for their physical, mental, emotional, psychological, chemical and neurological disabilities/disorders. This further delays their successful re-entry process. They are told they must change, that the civilian world does not necessarily value their skills. Mark Balzer writes in his book “The People Principles,” Most people don’t hate change; however, people do hate being changed. What people want is to feel valued for who they are and what they do. Too many of our returning veterans do not feel valued.

As their frustration, anger and often depression increases some veterans become increasingly dependent on substances such drugs or alcohol to help them cope. Some are arrested for non-violent crimes such as DUI’s, or possession of a weapon or drug. They are not criminals they just need help. Treatment not punitive action is by far the best course of action. Fortunately Judge Robert Russell from my home town of Buffalo NY launched the first of the nation’s roughly 260 Veterans Treatments Courts in 2008.

What is a Veterans Treatment Court (VTC)?        With slight modifications, it follows the essential tenets of the 1997 U.S. Department of Justice publication, “Defining Drug Courts” a VTC is as follows:

  • The VTC model requires regular court appearances, as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions, and frequent and random testing for drug and alcohol use.
  • Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment, given their past experiences in the Armed Forces. However, a few will struggle, and it is exactly those veterans who need a VTC program the most. Without this structure, these veterans will reoffend and remain in the criminal justice system.
  • The VTC is able to ensure they meet their obligations to themselves, the court, and their community.

In short, the VTC says to our veterans, since you served our nation with honor and during your service you suffered a disorder or disability, you now have the ability to seek the treatment that will help you address the underlying reasons for many of your challenges. The VTC is a challenging program and the vast majority of veterans that have enrolled in the VTC successfully complete the intensive program and are able to take the next step toward a productive life.

While very helpful, VTC alone is not the end of the journey. Once the veteran has a better handle on the underlying issues, they still need to develop the transformational skills to secure a job, or career and a fulfilling life.

A new organization that helps our VTC graduates and other veterans develop transformational skills is Awakening Wholeness Inc., https://awakeningwholeness.org/ a charitable organization. Awakening Wholeness, Inc. (AWI), mission is to positively impact the lives of the people we serve by providing transformational educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values, and promote healthy choices. Our goal is to equip the people we serve with all the tools they need to become physically, mentally, and spiritually ready to live productive, fulfilling, and sustainable lives.

Why do we need Veterans Treatment Courts and organizations like Awakening Wholeness? Let me give you some facts:

Most veterans are strengthened by their military service, but the combat experience has unfortunately left a growing number of veterans with issue such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

  • One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment.
  • One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance use issue. Research continues to draw a link between substance use and combat-related mental illness.
  • Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.

Let me give you some frightening statistics:

Suicide – Between 20 and 22 veterans commit suicide daily.


  • Over 630,000 homeless people in America. 67,495 are veterans.
  • Over 1 in 10 homeless people in America are veterans. Source Military Wallet April 10, 2019
  • Over 968,000 veterans lived in poverty in the last year.
  • 20,000 veterans with government sponsored mortgages lost their homes in 2010.
  • 76% of homeless veterans experience alcohol, drug, or mental health issues.
  • 2% of veterans ages 18-24 are unemployed.

It’s easy to jump to conclusions, but we shouldn’t. Here is some surprising information about homeless veterans:

  • 89% received an honorable discharge.
  • 67% served 3 years or more.
  • 47% are Vietnam veterans
  • 15% served before Vietnam
  • 5% are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.


  • An estimated 181,500 veterans are incarcerated, including 131,500 in prison and 50,000 in jails
  • 8% percent of all federal and state inmates are veterans
  • 55 percent, of imprisoned veterans told department researchers they’d been told they had a mental health disorder

As Judge Russell stated when he formed the first Veterans Treatment Court, “Treatment not punitive action is by far the best course of action.” The VTC’s are good first step. Organizations like Awakening Wholeness provide that next critical step for successful re-entry.

Don’t miss this enlightening discussion on September 10 at 8:00 AM PST – https://www.voiceamerica.com/show/3902/life-altering-events


CSI: Solving The Employee Retention Mystery By Deanne DeMarco

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CSI: Solving The Employee Retention Mystery By Deanne DeMarco

my jobThe Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) shows on television have become very popular as they uncover the mystery around a homicide. The scientists look for clues and follow the evidence in uncovering the mystery surrounding how and who caused the untimely death of a victim. In the business world, savvy executives realize that employee retention is critical to the long-term health and life of their organizations. Without an adequate number of employees to do the work, organizations could become the victims of an untimely “death.” Successful organizations know that becoming an “Employer of Choice” enables them to retain high caliber employees, and this is a key to bottom line success.

As the baby boomers (age 40-60) retire, senior executives and managers are starting to realize retention of high caliber employees is becoming a problem in their organizations. The facts tell it all: the Generation X population numbers 44 million people, while the Baby Boomer generation workforce numbered 76 million. The bottom line is simple – there are fewer workers available.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2017 there could be a shortage in the workforce of nearly ten million workers. Employee retention matters! Some economists have stated that perhaps as early as this year companies will begin to feel the pressure of retaining top talent.

Generation X: New Generation of Workers, New Mindset

In the late 1990’s, Generation Xers observed the long hours and work-life of their parents and older co-workers. They are saying that the workaholic lifestyle of their parents isn’t for them. According to a January 2006 article in Fortune Magazine, “ If your [workforce] was born between 1964 and 1977, you probably already know all too well that Generation X, as it’s often called, just doesn’t respond to the same carrots and sticks that motivates its elders.”

Survey results conducted by the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) serve as a timely warning to organizations. According to the survey, HR professionals believe that voluntary turnover will increase 41% to 53% among the Gen X work group. The report also revealed that 64% of employees in this work group said they were extremely likely to increase the intensity of their job search activities in the near future.

Here are three retention strategies that you can take to help keep your key employees.

C stands for Communication: Employees want to be in the know.

When you fail to communicate, you fail the employee and the organization. Employees want strong communication activities, which include feedback, group communication, and corporate communication.

Feedback is communication that is given to an employee or team. Positive feedback often involves telling an employee about good performance. Negative, or what is sometimes referred to as constructive feedback, often involves telling someone about an area in performance that can be improved.

  • Employee surveys continually report the need for one-on-one feedback that is both timely and actionable. Feedback, either positive or negative, needs to be given immediately after the occurrence. All too often an employee receives feedback months after an action occurred, and the facts surrounding the action are obscure. Employees also complain that managers are lax in giving positive feedback – employees need to know what they are doing well.
  • Actionable. Successful feedback includes information or action items that an employee has control over and can do something about.  Effective feedback is specific, and is focused on specific behaviors or actions that the employee can control.
  • The Gen Xers are reporting the need for more group communication. This includes group problem solving and strategic planning. This generation prefers working in teams and likes group involvement and being informed.
  • Employee surveys also report the need for meaningful communication around company issues. Employees what to know about organizational goals, and how their job is relevant to those goals and bottom line success. A very retention- focused company is successfully using employee think tanks to brainstorm ideas around corporate issues.

S stands for Supervision: Managers build teams, manage performance, and develop individuals to help them achieve success on the job.  Employees don’t leave good companies – they leave bad bosses.

The role of manager is changing and is becoming more important than ever. Progressive companies are teaching their managers how to coach employees.  The role as manager-coach requires a different skill set then the previous managerial role. Coaching employees is a results-oriented process of open communication and feedback between manager and employee. The manager-coach acts as a strategic partner in facilitating the employee’s development process. In sports, the coach prepares the team, gives direction and helps troubleshoot problems. It is then up to the team to produce positive results on the field. The same is true with coaching a work team. The manager-coach prepares the team while the employees perform the work. One free source on coaching is from Pocket Resource. This introductory, quick tip e-book was written for managers who want quick tools and tips on coaching. Go to www.pocketresource.com to download the information. The e-book should not be confused with an in-depth business coaching program for managers.

Lastly, employees want visible managers who are out on the floor, developing rapport and working with them. They want managers who vocally appreciate the work and effort they contribute.  Successful managers realize they can’t do the work without the employees, and provide positive feedback on a regular basis.

One sign of exceptional leadership is the ability to retain key employees. Managers with high turnover rates are seriously damaging their companies. If the company is going to succeed it must retain its talent. The heart beat of organizational success hinges on the retention of qualified employees. Organizations today can’t afford to lose good, qualified workers to competitors.

I stands for Interest: Employees want to know they are valued and important.

Employee attitudes have changed. Gen Xers are concerned about their personal quality of life. This can be a challenge for employers. One growing problem is the inability for corporate cultures to support the work/life balance initiatives they’ve put into place. There have been several documented cases when a company has a corporate work/life policy that states a benefit, however when the employee tries to exercise the benefit, he or she is denied. For example, in one company there is a policy that allows a worker to elect a status change from full-time employment to part-time employment. However when a Gen X mother requested the change in her status from full-time to part-time, so she could be at home more with her young children, she was denied. When she reminded her manager and department director of the published benefit, she was denied again and told to seek employment elsewhere.

Solutions come in different shapes and sizes. Some work/life benefits include:

*    Flex-time                                 * Job-sharing               * Vacation

*    Leave (paternity/maternity)    * Work hours               * In-house store /services

*    Four day work weeks             * Childcare                  * Eldercare

*   Celebrations                             * Telecommuting        * Office gym or gym support

The bottom line

Organizations that are adapting to the new work/life balance mindset are experiencing employees who are more loyal and committed to the companies they represent. Organizations that fail to focus on these issues will soon loose their key employees.

For some companies retention is a mystery. However, everyday we hear of another company that has unlocked the key to retention. The workforce may change, but successful corporations still need the same results: productivity, profitability, and a loyal workforce committed to the company’s bottom line.



Deanne DeMarco, MA, RCC, is an award-winning trainer and certified business coach. She partners with business leaders to create corporate cultures where people achieve more and love to work. Deanne is the author of several books including the book “Pocket Resource: Coaching Tips” and “Speaking of Success”.  For more information on her GenXer™    Factor Management Model, coach training, or her keynote speaking, please visit Deanne DeMarco’s Website. Tune into Today’s Inspiring Women on the Empowerment Chanel for current information.

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