Kentucky World War II veteran fights to prove that he served in bid to get VA benefits
08/13/2015 04:47 PM
FRANKFORT – A World War II veteran from Floyd County is still fighting, but this time the 92-year old is taking on the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Bluford “Buddy” Smith who served in Europe and was on the beach at Normandy during the war, told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection committee on Tuesday that he first became of aware of his lost military records when he retired from the coal mines in 1974.
“Veterans reported back to the United Mine Workers that they had no record of me being in the Army whatsoever,” Smith said. “Someone told me a building burnt down in St. Louis and destroyed all of the records.”
In 1973 a fire ravaged the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis causing millions of service records, including Smith’s, to go up in smoke.
As Veterans Affairs denied Smith’s claims he was forced to pay thousands of dollars out of his own pocket for medical procedures through the years.
About a month ago, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who’s known Smith all of his life, became of aware of Smith’s issues.
Stumbo, who believes that the medical bills should have been covered at least in part by the federal Veterans Administration, then contacted Kentucky Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Heather French Henry, to get help for the World War II veteran.
“For whatever reason he did not get the help that he should have,” Stumbo said.
Henry says that sometimes it veterans like Smith don’t go through the right channels to get the benefits that they are entitled to. Now that Henry said she is aware of Smith’s plight her office will assist him in getting the benefits that he is entitled to.
Losing records can be common place, Henry said, adding that there are a number of creative ways a veteran can prove that they’ve served if they find that their records are lost.
“You can provide documentation through a letter that was written home during that time of service, a picture that was sent home with your arm in a sling in front of a tank”, Henry said.
Henry said that the department of Veterans Affairs should be able to help Smith with his current bills, but she was unsure if he can be reimbursed for medical expenses which have already been paid out by the veteran.
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