Veterans courts will be good for state

Veterans of military service enjoy an enormous level of support from the public in West Virginia. During the upcoming session of the state Legislature, they should benefit from concrete political clout, too.

House of Delegates member Patrick McGeehan, R-Hancock, has been named chairman of his body’s Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee. McGeehan is an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan.

He is well aware of the special challenges that confront some veterans. “I’ve read that 22 veterans each day take their life,” he told our reporter, adding, “That’s a pretty scary statistic.”

It happens that a member of the Legislature’s other chamber, the state Senate, has a concrete idea to help veterans. He is Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, who also serves as chairman of the Senate Military Committee.

Weld also is a captain in the Air Force Reserve. And, he is an assistant prosecuting attorney in Brooke County, which has made him understand relationships between veterans and the court system.

Weld told us last fall he hopes to re-establish a system of special courts for veterans and those suffering from mental illness. It would function much the same as special drug courts do already, he explained.

As we also have reported, veterans courts are becoming more attractive in neighboring Ohio, too. Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato hopes to establish one.

Weld and Fregiato share the hope that special courts could help veterans deal with the challenges, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that contributed to them committing crimes.

It is an excellent idea.

We owe veterans much, including some consideration for the fact that their very service was a factor in leading some into trouble with the law.

McGeehan and Weld have both the desire and the power to persuade other lawmakers to do the right thing and re-establish veterans courts.