As a Vietnam veteran, I have experienced, first hand, the horrors of battle and the trauma it inflicts on brothers and sisters in uniform. But in the work I do to establish new veterans treatment courts around the state, I am seeing the lives of hundreds of service men and women returning from battle with PTSD and other disorders transformed from despair and depression to hope and redemption.

Veterans’ treatment courts have been central to these lives turning a corner for the better. Started in 2008, these courts, which allow veterans that have committed low-level offenses a chance to pursue an 18-month program of treatment and rehabilitation and have their cases expunged, are working! With success rates ranging from 85 to 98 percent, these courts are giving to veterans who had taken a turn for the worst – crime, addiction and down the path to suicide – a second (or third) chance for a better life. All while adding an extra measure of public safety through close supervision and effective rehabilitation.

In California, veterans in 27 counties have access to veterans’ treatment courts, and while that may seem great, that means that veterans in over half of our counties – most of them in rural, remote locations – do not have access to these court services and resources.

There appeared to be a glimmer of hope to change that – Assembly Bill 1672, a study bill which would have taken the first steps toward expanding the reach of these courts to allow every troubled veteran the opportunity for access to such services.

Disappointingly, our beloved veterans and their families lost in a big way in the legislature, as the Senate became bogged down in minutia.

This behavior is outrageous. AB 1672 had earned unanimous support in the State Assembly and two policy committees of the State Senate, and with good reason: the legislation commissioned a state study to examine the impact of veterans courts in counties where they exist and on veterans lacking such court services, and to identify technology or other avenues that would facilitate expanded reach.

Moreover, AB 1672 had the generous support of a private citizen – Central California philanthropist and businessman, B. Wayne Hughes, Jr. (who owns SkyRose Ranch in San Miguel that helps veterans with similar disorders), who was committed to pay $100,000 of the $200,000 cost of this state-commissioned study. A California citizen willing to pay out of pocket and offset state budget costs.

But despite this unanimous support in the “lower house” and much of the Senate, combined with the private support from Mr. Hughes, the Senate Appropriations Committee chose to kill a critically important bill.

No one really knows how or what pushes Capitol politicians to do what they do, especially during the final weeks of session and in an election year. Our politicians play shell games, trade favors, and lobby with legislative leaders, sometimes at the expense of worthwhile bills.

What I do know is that thousands of struggling men and women who risked their lives on the battlefield to protect our freedoms, only to return home with battles of their own, are out in the cold and without hope – the hope that AB 1672 would have given them for recovery. And that, Senators, is a shame.

We cannot and must not give up hope on our veterans and the promise of veterans treatment courts. The Legislature might have let them down, but we should never forget their brave service and commitment. We need to do everything we can to get them the care, compassion and services they desperately need today so they can experience a brighter tomorrow.