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Justice-Involved Veterans

In Oregon, it is estimated that the state houses approximately 725 incarcerated veterans, which would represent about 6 percent of the estimated 12,100 inmates in Oregon prisons (as of July 2021).

Although many federal VA benefits are affected by incarceration, justice-involved veterans may still be eligible for benefits, either at a full or reduced level. If benefits are terminated, they may be reinstated following your release.

How your benefits are affected depends on many factors, including the type of benefits you are receiving, the severity of the crime and the length of incarceration. However, it is important to know what compensation, pension, education and other benefits you may still be eligible for, because staying connected to these programs can greatly increase your chances of success post-release.

Explore below for more information about justice-involved veterans, what benefits you may still be eligible to receive and what programs are available to help you reintegrate back into the community after being released.

Resources and Information

The Task Force on Incarcerated Veterans was established through House Bill 2838 (Chapter 824, Oregon Laws 2015), which passed during the 2015 Oregon Legislative Session. The mission of the Task Force was to research, study, and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding outreach, information, and assistance to incarcerated veterans with respect to their earned federal and state veterans’ benefits, as well as other available services and resources.  

Read the Report​

This program offers outreach to veterans incarcerated in state and federal prisons, and referrals and short-term case management assistance upon release from prison.

HCRV services include:

  • Outreach and pre-release assessments services for Veterans in prison.
  • Referrals and linkages to medical, mental health and social services, including employment services on release.
  • Short-term case management assistance on release.

For more information: Federal VA: Re-entry Veterans Services

VA benefits are affected if a beneficiary is convicted of a felony and imprisoned for more than 60 days. Disability compensation paid to an incarcerated veteran rated 20 percent or more disabled is limited to the 10 percent rate. Payments are not reduced for participants in work-release programs, residing in halfway houses or under community control.

Failure to notify the VA of a veteran’s incarceration can result in overpayment of benefits and the subsequent loss of all VA financial benefits until the overpayment is recovered. VA benefits will not be provided to any veteran or dependent wanted for an outstanding felony warrant.

The VA may be able to take a portion of the amount that an incarcerated veteran is not receiving and pay it to his or her dependents, if they can show need. When a veteran is released from prison, his or her compensation or pension benefits may be restored. Depending upon the type of disability, the VA may schedule a medical examination to see if the veteran’s disability has improved or worsened.

For more information: contact your local veteran service officer, or visit the Federal VA: Incarcerated Veterans webpage.

There is a growing effort nationally and in Oregon to institute veterans’ courts or dockets to allow district attorneys to send military members and veterans into treatment, rather than jail, when they commit a non-violent offense. These courts are staffed by people who take into consideration the charges and challenges facing veterans who return home from war. They may allow some military members to enter into mental health diversion programs as treatment for non-violent infractions as opposed to automatically jailing the off ender.

The law relies on the judgment of a prosecutor, who will determine on a case-by-case basis which defendants may be eligible for diversion. These prosecutors must consider, for example, whether a veteran who spent four years at a military base should be offered the same diversion opportunity as one who deployed twice to combat situations in Afghanistan or Iraq. Prosecutors must decide how serious the crime must be before diversion is taken off the table and must consider the victim of the offense.

For more information: contact your local District Attorney’s office​ or your local veteran service office.

VJO offers outreach and case management to veterans involved in law enforcement encounters, overseen by treatment courts, and incarcerated in local jails. The purpose of the VJO initiative is to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among veterans by ensuring that eligible justice-involved veterans have timely access to VHA mental health and substance abuse services when clinically indicated, and other VA services and benefits as appropriate.

VA Medical Centers have been strongly encouraged to develop working relationships with the court system and local law enforcement and must now provide outreach to justice-involved veterans in the communities they serve.

Each VA medical center has been asked to designate a facility-based Veterans’ Justice Outreach Specialist, responsible for direct outreach, assessment, and case management for justice-involved Veterans in local courts and jails, and liaison with local justice system partners.

For more information: Visit the Federal VA: VJO website for a list of Oregon's VJO Specialist Contacts.

​Through the Federal VA, veterans answer a series of questions to get customized step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a discharge upgrade or correction. 

If your application goes through and your discharge is upgraded, you’ll be eligible for the VA benefits you earned during your period of service.

Apply for a Discharge Upgrade​

National Resource Directory

Resource website that connects wounded warriors, service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers to programs and services that support them.

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