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Military personnel facing less-than-honorable discharge would have their cases reviewed by at least one mental-health professional under the defense-spending bill that Congress sent to President Obama late last week.

The requirement, attached to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, was inspired by war veteran Kristofer Goldsmith, who says he was removed from service without a proper diagnosis.

Goldsmith deployed to Iraq in 2005, focusing on intelligence reporting from the field. He participated in more than 300 combat missions, and his duties included photographing victims of torture found in a mass grave.

He attempted suicide shortly before a scheduled second deployment, and the Army discharged him for “Misconduct: Serious Offense,” a status that made him ineligible for student aid through the Post 9-11 GI Bill.


(Paula Bronstein/Getty)

The Department of Veterans Affairs diagnosed Goldsmith with post-traumatic-stress disorder two months after his removal.

The defense spending bill would require at least one mental-health expert to sit on military review boards that review discharges. The goal is to prevent the government from unfairly denying access to benefits that troops earn through military service, including VA medical care, disability checks and student aid.

“This will benefit veterans from every generation — past, present and future,” Goldsmith said in a statement on Friday.

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who represents Goldsmith’s home state, sponsored the discharge provision as a stand-alone bill and pressed to include it in the defense-spending bill.

“We must ensure that the men and women of our military who risk their lives to protect our country receive the care they earned,” Gillibrand said in a statement on Friday.  “Too many of our service members have been discharged as a result of an undiagnosed or improperly diagnosed mental health condition.”

Goldsmith has applied twice to an Army review board to have his status upgraded to honorable discharge, but the panel has denied his appeals both times.  At his last hearing, a physician with no background in mental health was called as an expert witness to review his mental health files.

“Justice is finally within reach for the countless veterans who, like me, have been inappropriately discharged from the military due to improperly or undiagnosed service-related illnesses and injuries,” he said in his statement.

After seven years of treatment from the VA, Goldsmith is recovering from post-traumatic-stress disorder and attending Nassau Community College under the school’s vocational rehabilitation program.