When Samba Jargu came back from serving abroad in places like Somalia, Egypt, and the Horn of Africa and at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California, he never imagined he would come back with health issues.

Those health issues include arthritis, seizures, heart issues, and mental health issues, but those are just a small list of issues and just some of the places he was abroad.

On Wednesday he flipped through a small notebook where his caretaker wrote in all of his health issues and symptoms.

Those health issues are why he has to take up to 16 pills a day.

Some days are better than others. Some days I cant function, Jargu said.

His health issues are a tough pill to swallow, especially knowing theyre linked to being exposed to toxic burn pits, depleted uranium, lead, asbestus, and other toxicities.

So many of my symptoms were ignored because they said youre too young to have this, he said.

He was tested back in 2018 for his health issues, but doctors told him they didnt find evidence his health issues were linked to the burn pits and toxic exposures, which is why he didnt initially qualify for the burn pit registry.

It left Jargu frustrated after having served for eight years from 2004 to 2012.

You have to start acknowledging and not minimizing the issues that people are having, he said.

After seeing his primary care doctor, he had to go through a process to reprove his health conditions.

Jargu said that process was traumatizing, having to explain all the hardships he faced while serving.

You have a whole generation thats going to be dealing with this stuff, Jargu said.

Last August, President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act, which gives health benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits and other exposures. The VA started processing those benefits back in January.

Wednesday August 9 was the last day to apply for benefits or submit an intent to file for benefits backdated to last year, but the VA recently changed that deadline to Monday August 14. Veterans can still apply after that date, but they would only get benefits forward facing from the day they filed.

Almost a year ago Jargu had to submit an intent to file for the benefits.

Not knowing whats on the other end for the care.to me, its a little worrying, he said.

However, that process was challenging for Jargu, who called the VA several times, even getting disconnected.

That process.it just feels like a loop, he explained.

Thats what made him go in person to the VA.

KGUN9 reporter Andrew Christiansen spoke to the VA in Phoenix about Jargus situation to get some answers.

Chris Norton, the director of the Phoenix VA said hes not sure about what happened months ago for veterans like Jargu who called, but he said the VA has been seeing an increase in calls this week.

He said the average wait time for phone calls is 15 to 25 minutes.

In Phoenix we brought in over 500 people just since January alone, so were staffing up significantly, Norton said, saying some of them answer the phones.

He said nationwide the VA has hired 4,000 staff members since October.

Nationwide, in the last week of July, the VA says they got over 23 thousand calls.

For people that live outside of Phoenix, he said they can also schedule an appointment online.

Norton said some veterans were having issues when they applied and saw an error pop up online, but their applications are still being accepted.

As the sun sets on the deadline for benefits dating back to last year, Jargu said veterans should still take the risk and apply.

Hes also just glad the VA is finally recognizing people like him.

You arent just something that can be thrown away after service, he said.