State House Panel Approves Bill Helping Traumatized, Injured Military Defendants

Tuesday, March 1st 2011, 3:07 pm
By: News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A state House committee has approved legislation that would allow veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) to receive treatment when they are convicted of a crime.

The bill would allow a judge to send a military veteran convicted of a crime to the Department of Veteran Affairs for treatment if the defendant was diagnosed with PTSD or TBI. The injuries would have to be service related and contributed to the commission of the crime. State Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) wrote the bill. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine.

"Many veterans are struggling to cope with PTSD and TBI, and are not seeking the treatment they need," said Bennett. "My legislation will help them to get treatment, which I believe they have earned through their service to our country. This is not an opportunity for someone to commit a crime and blame it on PTSD."

Before his election to the Oklahoma House, Bennett helped create the state's first veteran's court, an alternative sentencing venue for veterans struggling with addiction due to PTSD. Currently, the court only handles misdemeanors. Bennett said the new legislation would build on that sentencing program to include veterans involved in some felony crimes.

"These men and women have been willing to serve and possibly die for our country," said Bennett. "Any veteran dealing with resulting service-related PTSD or TBI should have the chance to get treatment before incarceration."

House Bill 1081 passed unanimously in the House Judiciary Committee. It now awaits a vote on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.