Nebosja "Vic" Zlatanovic
Since participating in the January 2017 Fellowship Class, Vic continued to advocate for the establishment of a veterans diversion program (VDP) in New Jersey. Senate Bill 307 was originally proposed as a limited program, but through the efforts of Vic and other veterans, S307 was broadened to be applied statewide, set minimum standards for counties to follow, include veterans with other-than-honorable discharges, and include veterans accused of third-degree offenses.
However, the program remains limited, as it excludes from participation veterans accused of domestic violence. Because so many domestic violence cases are dismissed or withdrawn on procedural grounds, by excluding veterans from this program, New Jersey state lawmakers are not helping to enroll veterans in much-needed treatment programs being made available to other defendants.
During 2016-2017 efforts to promote a VDP, speaking at legislative hearings, Vic also called for adopting military service as a mitigating sentencing factor, which many jurisdictions have already adopted—except New Jersey. Recognizing military service as a mitigating sentencing factor would help address a longstanding problem among veterans involved in the criminal justice system: veterans are being sentenced to much harsher terms than nonveterans for the same types of offenses. There is growing grassroots recognition and support for reform, and proposed state legislation is currently being considered.
Vic also advocates for raising awareness of mefloquine, an antimalarial drug known to heighten the risk of serious neuropsychiatric symptoms. Vic believes that the U.S. Dept. of Defense and U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs should research the long-term consequences of use of mefloquine by servicemembers deployed to Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Lack of screening failed to recognize contraindications, and thousands of veterans wrongly received mefloquine from the military. In May 2017, Vic persuaded the 173rd Airborne Brigade Association at its Oklahoma City convention to adopt a resolution in support of mefloquine research and to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Association of the United States Navy in raising awareness. Vic credits HGVA’s training and feedback on how to better advocate for veterans.
In May 2017, Vic was chosen to be Chair-Elect for the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Military Law and Veterans Affairs Section (MLVAS). He’s next in line to become chairman in 2018, and Vic looks forward to organizing a productive and informative continuing legal education seminar for New Jersey lawyers on military and veterans issues. He plans to include a segment on veteran-owned business (VOB) certification and government contracting and private-sector diverse supplier opportunities for VOBs.