Suffolk County's first-in-the-nation Veterans Traffic Court, which halted operations at the start of the pandemic, resumed hearing cases on Friday.

The court will assist the county's more than 56,000 active and retired veterans — more than any other county in the state — with both traffic and parking tickets, while serving as a repository for other county services, including counseling, housing and employment, administration officials said.

“Oftentimes, you get veterans with many problems that come into court,” said Suffolk County Executive Edward P. Romaine. “Some of the problems we can address and send them to the right services to get dealt with. It's not about hitting the guy up for a fine as much as it is about seeking how we can help people.”

Going forward, cases will be heard by Judicial Hearing Officer Allen Mathers, a judge and retired JAG colonel, on the third Friday of every month at the county's veterans affairs office in the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Mathers, who was placed on active duty on Sept. 11, 2001, presided over the court before it halted operations.

In 2017, Suffolk became the first county in the nation to create a veterans court in its traffic court system. The goal, officials in then-County Executive Steve Bellone's administration said at the time, was to help veterans avoid excessive fines, suspensions and arrest warrants, which can hurt their return to civilian life.

The program, like many others on Long Island, shut down at the start of the pandemic in 2020 but never resumed operations when in-person services returned.

Suffolk Legis. Chad Lennon (R-Rocky Point), an active Marine reservist who earned a Purple Heart while on active duty in Afghanistan, said the services provided by the court are critically needed. Earlier this year, he asked Romaine and Bryan Browns, director of the Suffolk County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, to bring back the court.

“It's a way for us to identify veterans and provide resources to them, especially those who may have trouble with employment, homelessness and any other issues,” Lennon said, adding that officials from a host of other county departments and nonprofits will be on hand to provide additional services, including help navigating the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Experts contend that veterans, particularly those who return from combat zones, often struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, while continuing to rely on the evasive truck maneuvers and driving at the high rates of speed that were part of their military training — but not necessarily aligned with the rules of suburban roadways.

“You're spending months, if not years, going at a certain speed with the threat of an [improvised explosive device], animals on the side of the road or some other anomaly,” Lennon said. “When you're driving on the LIE and you see something like that, it can kick in your training where somebody floors it and flies across the road trying to get away from what they perceive as a threat — especially if it's within a few months of returning back from a combat zone.”

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among veterans in the early years after returning from deployment, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans seeking more information about the traffic court can call 631-843-3800.

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