Last Friday 5 Congress Members flew to Tijuana, Mexico, and met with the many U.S. veterans who had been deported. The veterans are unable to access their federal benefits despite some suffering from mental illness of physical disabilities. The congress members were members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The team planned to return back to DC and suggest to the Department of Veterans Affairs on ways in which the veterans can access the disability compensation, health care and other services. The delegation was led by Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif.
The other congress members who went with Takano, were Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif., Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., Norma Torres, D-Calif., and Gregorio Sablan, I-Northern Mariana Islands. The team met with the former service members of the Deported Veterans Support House, which was founded by 82nd Airborne veteran Hector Barajas-Varela. Barajas Varela was also discharged honorably and deported in the year 2009 after he was found guilty.
For many years Barajas-Varela has been advocating for the deportation reversals of the many U.S. veterans. However, when the delegation visited he decided to take a different approach, he accepted that indeed they may never return to America and so he opted to advocate for the situation in Mexico to be improved. Most of the veterans age from 50 to 70 years old and some from addiction, depression, military-related ailments and other issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes and hepatitis C. The delegations has been summarizing recommendations that it will present to the House committee and the VA. Takano said that some of the things they would like the deported veterans to access are good healthcare, technology, telehealth and assistance in filling out their claims for VA benefits.
Veterans have had to wait for months in order to get an appointment in the city of Mexico or Guadalajara which happens to be 2,000 miles away.
Tiffany Haverly, who is the communications director for Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, commented that the committee currently doesn’t have any plans of taking up laws that are related to the benefits that the deported veterans are to access. Takano commented that the VA indeed has the authority to make amendments and changes that will benefit the deported veterans, he said he’s planning to visit VA Secretary David Shulkin.