More Lawyers Explore PTSD as Factor in Veteran Crimes

19 Sep 2011

There is now increasing acceptance of the role that post-traumatic stress disorder plays in disrupting a person's mental equilibrium. In fact, around the country, there is also increasing evidence that courts and prosecutors are more likely to consider lower or alternate sentences for veterans convicted of violent crime.

A case in points is a veteran in North Carolina who is accused of the murder of his infant daughter. Joshua Stepp, a former Army infantryman is facing first degree murder charges in the death of his infant daughter who was suffocated to death. His lawyers allege that this crime does not fit the criteria for first degree murder because it was not premeditated. Stepp allegedly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and therefore was not mentally capable of the premeditation that first degree murder charges demand. His lawyers are calling for lowered second degree murder charges instead.

After close to a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, many veterans now find greater acceptance of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, especially when these result in violent crimes. Service members are some of the most frequent victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, and in the past, it was made worse by the lack of awareness and acceptance of the disorder. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include a sense of social isolation and alienation. Additionally, persons who suffer from this disorder may also suffer from depression, guilt, nightmares and flashbacks.

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects thousands of veterans returning from combat. California veterans’ disability benefits lawyers have been pleased to see that there is increasing understanding about the severity of some of these symptoms. In 2005, approximately 200,000 veterans around the country were receiving disability benefits for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. There was an increase of 80% in the number of veterans receiving disability benefits for PTSD treatment, from 2000. In 2005, veterans disability benefits for PTSD treatment cost $4.3 billion. That number has likely increased now.