Veterans deserve fair treatment for mental ills


At a news conference on April 16 at Nassau Community College, former U.S. Army Sgt. Kristopher Goldsmith, who received a general discharge after serving a tour in Iraq, spoke about the need not only for better mental health care for returning veterans, but also for the input of mental health professionals in all cases of less-than-honorable discharges from the military.

Goldsmith told the college audience that his discharge resulted from his being misdiagnosed with a pre-existing mental condition.

While deployed in 2006, Goldsmith sought medical attention for mental trauma that he said he sustained while on duty, specifically to treat his frequent panic attacks and emotional isolation. An Army psychiatrist prescribed anti-depressants. Goldsmith said he felt like he had three options: Suck it up and soldier on, go AWOL and seek treatment at home, or kill himself. Distraught, he attempted suicide, downing bottles of vodka and Percocet pills.

He was dismissed from the Army in 2007 with a general discharge. He was later diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, and has attended therapy sessions for the past seven years.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand — who stood with Goldsmith at the news conference — announced her sponsorship of a bill to require the panel that reviews military discharges to include at least one mental health professional. Gillibrand said she hopes her bill will be included in the National Defense Authorization Act in 2015. It calls for proper evaluation of and counseling for veterans who suffer from various combat-related injuries, most notably post-traumatic stress disorder, to ensure that they are granted rightful benefits when they are discharged.

We agree with Gillibrand that veterans should receive fair psychological evaluation at the time of their discharge, especially if the discharge results from “misconduct” like Goldsmith’s near-fatal struggle with mental trauma.

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