Body of Deported Veteran Returned to U.S.
WESLACO – The family of a deported veteran is welcoming him back home. His family says it's not the kind of homecoming any of them wanted.
For years, U.S. Army Veteran Carlos Torres waged a silent legal war. On Saturday, he lost that battle. His family hopes other deported veterans won't suffer his fate.
Solemn faces and silent soldiers greeted Torres as his body was carried into the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission.
This was not the homecoming any of them wanted for the man some called father like Robert Mosqueda, Torres' son.
"I've always seen my dad as Superman," he said.
Others called him brother like Norma Torres Treviño, his sister. "He was strong. He was strong," she added.
Torres lived his last nearly 20 years in Reynosa, Tamaulipas in Mexico.
At 10 months old, his parents crossed him into the U.S. "Through Reynosa," Norma clarified.**
Years later, he was deported there. "Ironic," as Norma described it.
Torres volunteered during the Vietnam draft to serve in the army. Years later, a mistake led him to serve four years in prison.
Torres was arrested on drug-related charges alongside an old friend. His son recalls it was one of Torres' greatest regret.
"I know my dad was at the wrong place at the wrong time with him," Mosqueda said.
The veteran was deported from the U.S. around 2001, his family said.
Torres lived in Reynosa working as a security guard. He put in long hours and received abbreviated paychecks. Mosqueda said his father struggled to stay positive.
"He would always be depressed or angry about certain things that weren't right. We'd always try to catch him," he explained.
On Saturday, Torres went to a company Christmas party where he suffered a heart attack that left his family speechless.
This military family relied on Torres during two deaths. He always knew what to say to console his sister. On this day, there's only silence.
Norma wonders, "Who's going to comfort me today?"
She hopes her brother's death could spur a change in the law and bring deported veterans alive back to the U.S.
Congressman Vincente Gonzalez was working with Torres to help bring him back home.
Gonzalez introduced the Repatriot Our Patriots Act in May but it failed to gain enough traction.
The congressman said he won't give up in a statement.
Torres died of a sudden heart attack. His family said the death certificate cited natural causes.
Even though some U.S. veterans are deported, there is still medical care available for them.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to Hector Barajas the founder of the Deported Veterans Support House, an organization that provides help for veterans living outside the U.S.
According to Barajas, they have more than 400 members, about a dozen in Tamaulipas.
Barajas said government agencies are not reaching out to inform them that they can apply for medical assistance. He said that could have improved Torres' health.
The organization helps veterans file for VA benefits. If they qualify they could receive assistance.
In a statement by VA spokesperson Luis Loza Gutierrez, they expand on the benefits offered to veterans.
“VA services may be available to U.S. military Veterans who've been deported under the 'VAs Foreign Medical Program , if the deported Veteran is already enrolled in the VA healthcare system.
The Foreign Medical Program (FMP) is a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care benefits program for U.S. Veterans who are residing or travel abroad and have VA-rated, service-connected disabilities.
The eligibility requirements for medical services are different for Veterans outside the United States than for Veterans living within the United States.
The Foreign Medical Program assumes payment responsibility for U.S. Veterans only for a VA-rated service-connected disability, or any disability associated with and held to be aggravating a VA-rated, service-connected disability (38 CFR 17.35). (Veterans living in Canada are under the jurisdiction of FMP; however, inquiries and claims must be directed to the Foreign Countries Operations in Canada. See contact information below.)
Additionally, VA may authorize necessary foreign medical services for any condition for a Veteran participating in the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program (38 U.S.C. 31).
Additionally, deported Veterans may also be eligible for education benefits.
Veterans who are eligible for education benefits and have been deported may use their benefits to attend educational institutions outside of the U.S. as long as they enroll in a VA-approved program.
A good example of this could be a Veteran using his educational benefits to pay for tuition at an accredited and VA-approved foreign university with a medical program for those wanting to become a nurse or a doctor." he said. The VA's Weams Institution Search website lets Veterans find approved schools and universities both within the U.S. and overseas.
In addition to educational and health care, some Veterans may also be eligible for burial benefits despite being deported.”
**Video version inaccurately states Carlos Torres was crossed into the country illegally. Norma Torres clarified Torres was born in Mexico while his parents waited to receive their residency cards from the U.S. Once they were issued legal residency, they crossed into the U.S. Torres later became a legal permanent resident.
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