EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) - Veterans looking to file claims for chemical-related health effects that they suffered in the line of duty, can get the help they need this week.
It's estimated there are about 24,000 El Paso County veterans who could be eligible for compensation for health issues stemming from burn pits, agent orange, and other toxic substances, through the PACT Act.
To help those veterans navigate the claims, El Paso County has set up a clinic. The clinic, which began Monday and runs through Wednesday, Aug. 9, is to help veterans get screened to see if they're eligible for retroactive payments related to health issues before the August 9 deadline.
"It is not only our responsibility to bring awareness and help veterans to foster these benefits. It's our privilege," stated Longinos Gonzalez, Jr. the District 4 Commissioner of El Paso County.
Longinos also said that spouses of veterans can also apply and still receive benefits.
He says that if they've lost a husband or wife, due to toxic chemical-related health effects, they are also eligible.
"This is something that could significantly impact in a positive way. Veterans and their families, especially somebody who might be struggling to get by right now -- these are benefits that could absolutely help them," explained Gonzalez Jr.
Robert Odom, a Desert Storm veteran who lives in Colorado Springs - has asthma, which doctors say is presumptively from burning oil fields in Kuwait.
He said he's already gotten monthly payments from the Veterans Association, but instead went to the clinic to get proper health coverage.
"I just want to make sure that I can get my treatment, for this asthma, and so on," said Odom.
Alex Sosa is a veteran from Fountain who served for nearly two decades. He has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as back pain, knee pain, and other health issues, for years.
Yet this was his first time coming to an event like the one hosted by the county, and he wants others like himself to know that help is here.
"That is vital - vital because we've got so many means of communication, but yet it always seems that some people won't know about certain things," said Sosa.
"You need to get down here - or up here - and get into the mix of it. It's to your benefit," Sosa added.
Colorado's VA Department says that they've granted $32 million in retroactive payments over the last year since the Pact Act was established, and have processed about 9,000 claims out of the 15,000 that have been filed.
If you can't make it in person to the event, you can still apply online by clicking here before the deadline to remain eligible. If you miss the deadline, you can still apply moving forward - you will just not be eligible for retroactive payments.
The clinic lasts until Wednesday, Aug. 9, and runs from noon to 8 p.m. at the U.S Recruiting & Readiness Center at 9510 Voyager Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO 80920.