A U.S. courtroom. Photo credit: Ammodramus, via Wikimedia Commons

Officials in San Diego celebrated the five-year anniversary Thursday of the Veterans Diversion Program, which supports military veterans facing criminal charges.

Under the program, a limited number of vets have the opportunity to see their charges set aside if they complete one year of requirements.

Qualified veterans who plead guilty can take part in the court-monitored program, which may involve substance abuse treatment, as well as employment and education counseling.

To take part, veterans 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 office estimates it receives “dozens of applications every year,” only 33 participants have graduated since the program began in 2016; 21 continue to take part.

This year, nine veterans, from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and the National Guard, graduated and saw their charges dismissed.

They faced felony convictions, with some looking at mandatory minimum sentences of up to 10 years in prison, according to the office.

Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said those “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.”

“Being part of the Veterans Diversion Program is our office’s small part in repaying that debt,” he concluded.

— City News Service

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