WASHINGTON, DC (Gray DC) -- As the U.S. Senate continues to debate funding our nation's defenses, one piece of the bill is moving ahead. It aims to help our veterans who were kicked out of the military with a "less than honorable" discharge.
“Everyone around me – my friends and family – seemed to notice that something was wrong,” said Army Veteran Kristofer Goldsmith.
Goldsmith saw some bad things when he was deployed to Iraq in 2005.
“Part of my job ended up being photo documenting mass graves. And that’s something kind of changed me,” he explained.
Two years later, Goldsmith attempted suicide.
“Thankfully, I didn’t die. But from the moment I woke up, the Army treated me like a criminal,” said Goldsmith.
Because attempting suicide was considered “misconduct,” he was given a “general discharge” – a less-than-honorable discharge. Goldsmith says that made him unemployable. Two months after being kicked out of the Army, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He sought treatment at the VA.
“It took a long time, but I turned around my life,” said Goldsmith.
But Goldsmith still doesn’t have an honorable discharge. So he went to Congress to do something about it. He found an ally in Michigan Senator Gary Peters.
“The more we looked into the issue, we realized it’s something that impacts thousands of veterans across the country,” said Peters.
Peters – and a bipartisan group of senators – added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. It would order military discharge review boards to consider petitions to change a veteran’s discharge status to “honorable,” if they’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or other conditions related to their service.
“This is an injustice that needed to be fixed,” said Peters.
The Senate still has to pass the final bill, and then work out the differences with the House. Goldsmith remains optimistic.
“In an election year, everyone sees the government as not working. But I’ve seen it work,” said Goldsmith.