When I was in elementary school, I remember vividly the scene in First Blood when Rambo breaks down and confesses how much difficulty he has dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), and can't hold a simple job or live a normal life. I also remember thinking how our nation could let something like that happen to its veterans.
But things have not gotten much better and one consequence of America's wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan is when veterans come home, many are having great difficulty adjusting back to civilian life. From the US Department of Veteran's Affairs:
Research shows that aggressive behavior is more common in those with PTSD than those without PTSD. For example, in one study, male Vietnam Veterans with PTSD committed more acts of violence against family and others than Veterans without PTSD. Also, rates of PTSD in prison inmates are higher than in the general public.
While some cynics say anyone who claims PTSD is malingering or is trying to get benefits (see PTSD and the Vet), there is very good reason to think PTSD is real and that but for PTSD or viable treatment, these veterans would not be in the criminal justice system.
I personally have spoken to combat veterans who upon return to civilian life, have been accused of various crimes. Unfortunately for them and all of us, the law does little to help veterans suffering from PTSD if it does not rise to the level of mental illness. And my experience is that so far, prosecutors don't really care if a veteran accused of a crime is suffering from PTSD. One way to change that would be for Arizona to adopt Veteran PTSD legislation like Minnesota is considering:
The legislation would require the courts to determine whether a criminal defendant is a veteran. With military service established, the defense attorney could then order a psychological assessment... If the veteran is diagnosed with a mental illness, the court will be made aware of possible therapy programs available through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and treatment can be considered during sentencing
For more information on this story, the pending Minnesota legislation, and former Marine Tony Klecker see "Crime and PTSD: Pending legislation would help veterans get treatment instead of prison time" by Beth Walton.
For anyone who is concerned about how Arizona treats its veterans, please contact your local senator, representative, and the governor's office so that Arizona can adopt legislation in line with the Minnesota bill.