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11-06-04, 07:37 AM #1
Vietnam Files Provide Marines Access To Their Records
Vietnam Files Provide Marines
Access To Their Records
by Christine Bensen
The Eureka Reporter
Thanks to Vietnam veteran David Prendergast, U.S. Marines who served in the Vietnam War can now access their records online.
For years, Prendergast, a local attorney, has volunteered his spare time helping Vietnam veterans access their records so that they can establish their disability eligibility.
“I’ve been doing vet service work for over 30 years,” he said.
In 1998, after deciding he wanted to create a history of his unit Prendergast said he requested his “first really large chunk of data” from the government.
Prendergast received a set of compact discs with documents from the war and began doing his research.
“I was doing the research with individual CDs and it was very difficult,” he said.
A client of his noticed his problem and set up a site for him with all the information from the CDs to simplify his search.
“I wanted (the site) for research to help Marines working on disability claims,” Prendergast said. “The archive is in the public domain. Under the Freedom of Information Act these records are provided because they belong to the public domain. In our cases, the cost we incurred to obtain and organize the records into a single search platform is simply beyond nearly everyone who needs something from them.”
In order to establish eligibility for disability, he said, the veteran must prove the day, time and place his or her injury happened or what events led to his or her post-traumatic stress disorder.
“For most vets, we remember how it happened, we’re just not good at remembering the (exact) time,” he said.
By comparing information from the site to records veterans already have, Prendergast said one can establish that he or she was there and receive the benefits he or she deserves.
“(The government) has to pay you back to the date you filed your claim,” he said, adding that he knows people who have gotten thousands in back pay.
The cost to access the site is $29.50 a month or $300.90 a year and Prendergast, who has invested more than $40,000 into the site, with equipment, upgrades, purchase of the CDs and time, said the price is just to cover costs.
“Ninety-nine point nine percent (of its users) can be completely done with this site in 28 days,” he said
Prendergast also provides technical support and said he has “walked” numerous users through the site.
Beside the assistance the site provides in establishing eligibility, he said it offers the entire history of the war and has also been useful to children who lost their fathers in the war, to connect with people who knew them.
“You can begin to reconstruct, (for) someone who wants to know, ‘who was my dad,’” Prendergast said.
Regularly, he said he receives thank-you letters from people who have used the site.
“I get these every day,” Prendergast said. “It’s the best part of my day.”
Visit The Vietnam Files Web site at www.thevietnamfiles.com.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
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