MCALLEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The Department of Veterans Affairs is set to host a town hall in McAllen to provide guidance on how Veterans exposed to toxic substances can get help. 

The idea is to outline how those affected can get services provided – including those some waited a long time for. 

Weslaco native and Air Force Veteran Samuel Perez understands exposure to burn pits. Perez had the experience while serving in northern Iraq back in 2009. 

“We had a football shape of a burn pit, there – football field shape of a burn pit. We burned all kinds of waste. That was my personal experience with burn pits,” Perez said.

Perez has long since learned the effects of this exposure are very serious. 

“Because of the burn pit exposures, I have respiratory disorders. These disorders were detected by Veteran Affairs and we were able to, you know, file our claims for them and win those claims,” he tells us.

The new law known as the PACT Act is helping veterans like Perez. It expands eligibility for VA health care and benefits for Veterans who have had exposure to toxic substances while serving.

Perez, who is now the Hidalgo County Veterans Service Officer, is seeing a lot of Veterans from the Vietnam era. 

“Half of our clientele are Vietnam Veterans. There is probably more Vietnam Veterans than there is Iraq, Afghan veterans,” Perez says.

With the amount of Veterans here in the Valley, the VA tells us that the calls were pouring in. The pleas for guidance on these issues.

“This is the reason why we’re hosting this town hall, so we can provide more information to our Veterans as to what this new law means and how they go forward about submitting applications for their compensation,” Hugo Martinez of Public Affairs for VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Healthcare System said.

The VA says that for those Veterans who served in Vietnam, though it took some time, the help they need is now more readily available. 

“It just took legislation which was signed into law last year that gives a lot of the Veterans from the Vietnam era now the opportunity to reapply for services that perhaps, or for compensation that perhaps they were denied for in the past,” Martinez said.

Martinez and Perez want local Veterans to come out and learn how they can get help. 

The VA Town Hall is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 19. It will be hosted at the McAllen VA Outpatient Clinic located on 901 E. Hackberry Ave.