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One Veteran Fights For Others To Keep Their VA Health Care

ASHBURNHAM (CBS) -- One American veteran says he remembers the emotional trauma of seeing the Trade Towers fall on 9/11.

"I was close enough to the towers when they fell on September 11th to see the smoke from my hometown," said Kristofer Goldsmith.

Now set against the backdrop of a peaceful lake in Ashburnham, Goldsmith told us about one of the most tumultuous times in his life. He was deployed to Iraq at the age of 19 where he photographed atrocities.

Kris Goldsmith in Iraq. (Photo credit: Kris Goldsmith)

"Sometimes it meant that I would be taking pictures of bodies, victims of torture. Iraqi on Iraqi violence," Goldsmith said.

He had to battle post traumatic stress disorder and even a suicide attempt.

"I took a fist full of Percocet and a bottle of vodka," he said.

He said he woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed and unable to make it to the flight for his second deployment. He received a general discharge from the army.

"I went from being one of the top soldiers in my battalion to being treated like a criminal," he said.

PFC Kris Goldsmith. (Photo credit: Kris Goldsmith)

A general discharge makes service members ineligible for some VA services. But thousands of veterans have also been given "Other Than Honorable" discharges disqualifying them from VA health care.

These bad papers, as Goldsmith calls them, can result from disciplinary problems caused by behavior linked to PTSD and traumatic brain injury, which leaves the most vulnerable veterans in the dark.

"The VA has told us that there are 505,000 veterans with bad paper," Goldsmith said.

Just yesterday, the new VA Secretary, David Shulkin, announced that VA medical centers will start offering 90 days of emergency mental health care to service members with an Other Than Honorable discharge.

Goldsmith says that's a start, but it's not good enough.

"It doesn't make any sense to wait for a veteran to reach a state of emergency to start providing care," he said.

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