The Senate gave unanimous approval to legislation Tuesday to allow judges to consider post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a mitigating factor when making sentencing decisions for veterans. Sen. Frank Simpson is the Senate principal author of House Bill 2595, which he says will help veterans get the assistance they need rather than being sent to jail.
“We send our veterans overseas to fight and they face situations that we couldn’t imagine in our worst nightmares. They suffer physical, emotional and mental wounds. The physical wounds are easy to treat because they can be seen but the others are not,” said Simpson, R-Springer. “When they return, if they don’t get the proper treatment to deal with their PTSD, they may unexplainably lash out violently at others or turn to alcohol and drugs to numb themselves, which can land them in court. They are not criminals, they are wounded heroes and they deserve special consideration from the courts.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that eleven percent of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and 15 percent of Vietnam veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD but that many others go undiagnosed because they do not seek treatment.
Various studies have found that at least 30 percent of men and women who have spent time in war zones experience PTSD and an additional 20 to 25 percent have had partial PTSD at some point in their lives.
Oklahoma has two PTSD diversion programs, one in Oklahoma County and another in Tulsa County.
HB 2595 is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Oklahoma Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Rita Aragon and other military organizations and groups.
The bill now moves to the governor’s office for her final consideration.