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VFW COMES TO THE AID OF BRONZE STAR RECIPIENT

A true hero receives the assistance he needed to secure benefits

John Barrett

Tom Smith (not his real name) wouldn’t call himself a hero. But indeed he is.

During Vietnam, the young soldier was providing security to a group of unarmed corpsmen. When the entire group came under attack, Smith didn’t hesitate to put his life on the line. Under heavy sniper and machine gun fire, Smith repeatedly carried the wounded out of harm’s way into a nearby ditch where they could receive medical attention. He is credited with saving many lives.

His heroism earned him the Bronze Star, but his wartime experience caused a lifetime of pain.

Throughout the years, he carried the memories of that trauma and others, silently suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Though he worked hard to be a successful professional and good father and husband, the PTSD always stood in the way.

After retiring—and with the symptoms worse than ever—Tom thought it was finally time to find help.

Although he was skeptical about the VA after some early negative experiences, a fellow Vietnam veteran urged him to call VFW for representation.

“Smith’s biggest concern was getting the health care he needed,” explained John Barrett, VFW Service Officer, New Hampshire. “He was really struggling. He couldn’t be in large groups. Watching news coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was crippling. He couldn’t talk about his time in Vietnam.”

Barrett walked Smith through the process of filing for disability compensation. Smith underwent a VA exam, which confirmed the diagnosis of PTSD.

Then the waiting began. Months passed, and Barrett stayed in touch with Smith as he waited for word. Finally, the good news arrived: Smith had received a 50% disability rating. He also received a $5,000 retroactive award.

“He called me the day he found out and told me how much comfort it brought to him knowing VFW was there for veterans,” remembers Barrett.

In the weeks following the final award, more good news arrived. So grateful for the help he received, Smith decided to pay it forward, donating $5,000 to a veterans’ initiative that helps returning troops adjust to civilian life.

“Helping this veteran was a real honor for me,” continued Barrett. “I know I can’t cure PTSD, but I feel good knowing he will now have full access to the mental health professionals who can help him get better.”

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