Mr. Goldsmith has spent the last decade appealing his discharge. He has sought treatment for his PTSD and his depression. He’s been invited to the White House to speak about mental health programs, and he’s started classes at Columbia University. Yet the Army continues to deny his request for an honorable discharge, holding the line on its initial conclusion that a suicide attempt amounts to a serious act of misconduct.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that as many as 20 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan may have PTSD. Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that as many as 13 percent of post-9/11 veterans have received less-than-honorable discharges. Last year, NPR reported that between 2009 and 2015, the Army separated more than 22,000 combat soldiers for misconduct after they had received diagnoses for mental health problems or traumatic brain injury.
That’s why Vietnam Veterans of America wrote to President Obama urging him to use his power to pardon all post-9/11 veterans who received less-than-honorable discharges without the due process of a court-martial. As outlined in a recent memorandum to Mr. Obama by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, using this presidential power is not without precedent. On his last day in office, President Gerald R. Ford issued a mass pardon, granting clemency discharges to Vietnam veterans in violation of the Military Selective Service Act or the Uniform Code of Military Justice between August 1964 and March 1973. President Jimmy Carter, in 1977, issued full pardons to those Americans who had refused induction via the Vietnam-era draft, erasing the felony-level offense of draft resistance for thousands of people. Today’s veterans deserve similar consideration.