OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma state senator has filed a measure to ensure that Oklahoma’s veterans get their rightful military benefits.

Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, filed Senate Bill 547, which would require the Oklahoma Attorney General to take legal action against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of individual veterans and their dependents who have been wrongly denied federal benefits.

“When you enlist in the military, you sign a contract to earn certain benefits in exchange for your service and sacrifice,” Pugh said. “It’s appalling after everything these brave men and women go through that the federal government would deny them their rightfully earned benefits – yet we see it every day. Countless veterans are struggling financially, are homeless, or have untreated physical and mental conditions because they’ve been denied their federal VA benefits. The system has let them down, but our state can step up, honor, and support these heroes by providing them with Oklahoma’s legal backing to get them their rightful federal benefits.”

The bill would also demand the department pay veterans their earned benefits, but also all back payments with interest.

“It’s easy to blame clerical errors when veterans are denied access to federal benefits and programs, but these patriots upheld their bargain with the U.S. government through their dedicated service, and we’re going to make sure they get every penny plus interest owed to them,” Pugh said. “We’re not letting the VA off the hook for this horrible wrong that has been done to Oklahoma’s courageous sons and daughters.”

Pugh also filed Senate Bill 545, also known as the Oklahoma Veterans’ Treatment Act.

The measure would authorize Oklahoma municipal and district courts to establish veterans treatment programs that would use specially trained court personnel to expedite a case and explore alternatives to incarceration for veterans.

The measure would apply to veterans charged with a crime who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, mental health issues, or substance abuse issues.

The program would be open to nonviolent offenders who are not charged or convicted of an 85% crime in the last 10 years.

“Many war veterans experience unimaginable traumas and debilitating injuries that can have a devastating impact on their mental and physical health when they return home. This often leads to alcohol or drug addiction, which can then cause employment problems, run-ins with the law, and even homelessness,” Pugh said. “When these heroes find themselves on the wrong side of the law, they need intervention and healing, not jail time. This program would be similar to the highly successful drug courts that divert those with drug addictions into a program that helps them get clean and become productive members of society again. I want our veterans to get the help they need to become whole again, so they can be the best versions of themselves.”

The measures can be considered once the Legislature convenes on Feb. 6.