Winger Bill to Increase Access to Veterans Courts Clears the Illinois House

Legislation sponsored by State Representative Christine Winger (R-Wood Dale) to increase the number of Veteran Treatment Courts in Illinois overwhelmingly passed out of the Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday. 

“Veterans risked their lives to protect our nation, we owe them the opportunity for rehabilitation,” explained Winger. “It’s our responsibility to take care of our servicemembers when they return from duty especially when minor offenses are often attributed to trauma from their time in service to our country.”

House Bill 5003 passed with bipartisan support and is a huge step in the right direction for veteran services. Currently, there are 12 Veterans Court programs in Illinois that aid veterans with non-violent records to overcome struggles with substance abuse and mental health recovery. Veterans who qualify and successfully comply with court orders are able to have non-violent charges dismissed.

As of 2014, problem-solving courts including Veteran Treatment Courts kept 1,200 nonviolent offenders out of prison and instead provided them treatment, saving taxpayers nearly $20 million.

Winger’s bill requires the Chief Judge of each judicial circuit to establish a Veterans and Servicemembers Court program. The legislation allows for the Chief Judge’s discretion to adopt the format of program for their localized needs.

House Bill 5003 now moves to the Senate for consideration.