After being denied benefits, Vietnam veteran Michael Prata sought the help of a VFW service officer.

After 23 years in the military, Michael Prata retired and returned to a peaceful life with his wife Ruby. Eight years later, he was hit with devastating news …

In 2005, Prata was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“There’s no history of cancer in my family, so I knew something wasn’t right,” said Prata. “I spent some time in Vietnam, exposed to Agent Orange, so I started doing some research.”

What Prata found is that, according to VA regulations, his illness is service-connected. That’s when Prata did some more research—research that led him to VFW Claims Consultant Penny Smith.

“Right off the bat, Smith was dedicated to my case,” said Prata. “She said she didn’t want me to end up lost in the system, frustrated by the lengthy application process.”

Prata’s initial claim was turned down. Because he had spent most of his time overseas flying in a helicopter squadron, there was no concrete evidence that his feet had ever touched the ground.

“Records weren’t as good back then as they are now,” said Prata. “I had sacrificed everything to fight for my county, and I had no way to prove it. It was very frustrating.”

Prata almost gave up after being denied a second time, but instead opted to appeal his claim. Fortunately for Prata, Smith was there to see him through.

“I made it my personal mission to make sure Mike got everything he was entitled to,” said Smith. “This is a man who was awarded the Air Medal … who spent nearly a quarter-century in uniform. I had to help make it right.” And that she did.

Smith helped track down the conclusive evidence proving that Prata was in Vietnam, on the ground.

In 2010, Prata was rated 100% service disabled and was awarded full benefits, as well as more than four years of retroactive compensation.

“This whole experience has been life changing,” said Prata. “I’m so grateful that Penny was there when I needed guidance. Because of her, I was able to resolve my financial issues and focus on beating the cancer.”

To other veterans suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, Prata offers some sound advice.

“Don’t go through it alone,” said Prata. “A VFW service officer can help. They know who to call … who to write … who to appeal to. Seek help and you shall find it.”



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