Retired Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Patt Maney, a wounded warrior who retired last year from his post as an Okaloosa County judge, will be named the Disabled American Veterans' Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year.
ORLANDO — Retired Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Patt Maney, a wounded warrior who retired last year from his post as an Okaloosa County judge, will be named the Disabled American Veterans' Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year on Saturday during the organization's national convention in Orlando.
Maney was chosen for the honor from among dozens of nominees submitted by DAV officials from across the nation. In a typical year, the DAV will review as many as 50 nominees, according to Ashleigh Byrnes, the DAV's deputy national communications director.
"It's very tough to try to make a decision," she said.
She added that one thing that set Maney apart from the other nominees was the breadth of his work on behalf of veterans.
"If you want to talk about sheer impact," Maney's work "has such a long reach in what he's been able to accomplish," Byrnes said
Maney, reacting to news of the award Tuesday, said "I was stunned, and very honored."
Perhaps his crowning achievement on behalf of veterans is his pioneering work to establish the state's system of veterans courts, enshrined in state legislation that bears his name. Dozens of Florida counties, including Okaloosa, where Maney presided over Veterans Court, have established special courts for veterans under the T. Patt Maney Veterans Treatment Intervention Act.
Signed into law in 2012, the act allows the chief judge in each of the state’s judicial circuits to establish a program in which veterans and service members charged or convicted of a criminal offense, who are suffering from a military-related mental illness, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse disorder or psychological problem, can be sentenced “in a manner that appropriately addresses the severity of the mental illness, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse disorder, or psychological problem through services tailored to the individual needs of the participant.”
Maney's other work for veterans included working with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to get a veterans' center established in the county. The center and its free services, including mental health care, "saves not only lives, it saves marriages, it saves families," Byrnes said.
Maney also spearheaded development of the Okaloosa-Walton Homeless Veterans Stand Down, an annual one-day event that links veterans and others with resources from clothing to medical screenings to opportunities to connect with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.
Maney's connection with Disabled American Veterans — a nationwide nonprofit organization that provides a range of services to veterans, including ensuring that they receive benefits to which they are entitled — began in the wake of the 2005 explosion of a roadside bomb in Afghanistan that blew up an SUV in which Maney, serving as a civil affairs officer, was riding.
All four people in the vehicle survived, but Maney was severely injured and spent nearly two years at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, recovering from severe head, neck and back injuries. In a 2006 medical evaluation, the Army determined that Maney could not return to duty, but was also not qualified for long-term disability benefits.
The DAV went to court to assist Maney in obtaining the benefits needed to facilitate his recovery, and in so doing helped allow him to do the work he subsequently did on behalf of veterans, Maney agreed Tuesday. But, he added, that work relied on the community, and that is the spirit in which he is accepting the honor he will receive Saturday.
The DAV award is, Maney said, a "recognition of the tremendous support that this community gives all of its veterans."