Bill helps ailing veterans

Judges would be encouraged to consider a PTSD diagnosis as a mitigating factor when sentencing any veteran convicted of committing a crime, under a bipartisan measure endorsed last week by a legislative panel.

House Bill 2595 by Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, received a “do pass” recommendation from the House Committee on Criminal Justice.

The bill provides that when making a sentencing decision concerning a veteran, the court “may consider as a mitigating factor” that the veteran has provided documentary evidence that he/she has been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder attributed to military service in a combat zone.

Research indicates that 60 percent of all men have experienced some type of trauma, such as exposure to combat, and of those 8 percent develop PTSD. Similarly, half of all women have experienced some form of trauma, such as rape or domestic violence, and 20 percent of them subsequently develop PTSD.

“We spend billions of dollars each year to equip and train our military to fight a war,” said Bennett, a retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. “They boldly and without hesitation defend our freedom. Then we bring them home and do very little to integrate them back into society. Some begin self-medicating because of what they have experienced. Their drinking often leads to drug use, which leads to crime.”