Working Directly with the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) in San Diego, a deported veteran has made a health clinic in Tijuana for other deported veterans a reality.
At the new exam site veterans will be checked out by medical professionals, who can determine if their health conditions are related to their military service.
“This was specifically for us so that we can get those exams done,” Hector Barajas-Varela told NBC 7. "We can see a provider in Mexico if we’re approved for a disability rating.”
Barajas-Varela served in the U.S. Army from 1995 to 2001 in the 82nd Airborne Division. He was first brought to the United States from Mexico illegally when he was seven.
Because of an incident with a firearm in 2002, Barajas-Varela served a year in prison and was deported. He crossed illegally back into the United States and was deported again in 2010.
Barajas-Varela has been working with the VA and Riverside Congressman Mark Takano to make the clinic a reality.
“Before we would have to get volunteers to come down and do it. Now we’re working directly with the VA in San Diego and we’re able to teleconference,” he said. “Really the most important part is that we’ve had three congressional visits this last year.”
He added, “Before we would have to get volunteers to come down and do it. Now we’re working directly with the VA in San Diego and we’re able to teleconference.”
Barajas-Varela, who is the founder of the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana, has been working with the VA to get the clinic open for five years.
Barajas-Varela said he has been in contact with hundreds of deported veterans around the world, including dozens that live in the Tijuana area.
The U.S. government doesn't keep track of deported vets, but the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said there could be thousands.
“We have a database of 400 people, but we really think it’s going to be in the thousands. Most of them are from Mexico, but we have people all over the world.”
He said the financial benefits for those on disability will be wide-ranging.
“So far we’ve had two audiology appointments,” he told NBC 7. “And one of them was granted a disability rating, and that turns into a monetary amount, and now he’s able to basically live off of that money and take care of his family that he has here in Mexico, but potentially this is going to help hundreds of men and women as well.”