News9.com

OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma lawmaker said he plans to file legislation this week that would allow veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and/or Traumatic Brain Injury who have been convicted of a crime to seek out treatment in an alternative sentencing program.

State Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, a Marine who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said the legislation would help veterans struggling with PTSD or TBI to recover after returning home from deployment.

"This is not a 'get out of jail free' card," Bennett said. "This is about taking care of our Veterans. If you cut off the root, you can fix the problem."

Bennett said the legislation would allow a judge to send a veteran who has been convicted of a crime to the Department of Veterans Affairs for treatment if the veteran has been diagnosed with either PTSD or TBI and the condition was a factor in the execution of the crime.

"There are a lot of veterans who struggle with PTSD and TBI, and rather than seek treatment they ‘self medicate' by turning to alcohol and drugs, which then leads to other crimes," Bennett said.

Bennett said the program could ultimately save taxpayers because the alternative sentencing and treatment would be less expensive than incarceration.