A do-it-yourself approach may be the solution to many issues faced by local veterans, including health care, homelessness and the isolating distance between local vets and care facilities in northern New Mexico; at least according to New Mexico Department of Veteransâ€™ Services Cabinet Secretary Tim Hale.
Veterans got a chance to meet Hale face-to-face at the Elks Lodge, Tuesday. Many vets took the golden opportunity to vent their frustrations with a government bureaucracy they feel has failed to provide adequate health care for vets or help those who have been left out on the streets.
A common issue was the lack of veterans facilities in southern New Mexico. The stateâ€™s only veterans hospital is in Albuquerque. There are several outpatient clinics in the state; none in Roswell.
â€œItâ€™s a shame,â€ said Magil Duran, a Vietnam War veteran. He said the dif ficulty in acquiring health care fails the promise many who enter the military believe, that â€œif you serve your country, your country will serve you.â€
Mark Rowland, a Cold War veteran, said many sick veterans get lost in the red tape. â€œ(Veterans are) getting ignored … and left to fend for themselves,â€ Rowland said.
â€œThereâ€™s so much that youâ€™ve got to fight through. … Unless youâ€™ve got the moral fortitude … people just donâ€™t put up with it.â€ Rowland said he has experienced veteran care in other states, and New Mexicoâ€™s services often do not measure up. â€œItâ€™s just atrocious how (veterans) get treated in New Mexico,â€ he said.
Hale suggested not waiting for the government and its bureaucracy to make amends. â€œWeâ€™re dealing with a government bureaucracy,â€ Hale said.
â€œBureaucracy … is very difficult to work with.â€ Instead, he suggested developing communitybased programs that could provide more immediate services for veterans than the government. â€œA community-based organization is going to get resolved a lot faster than anything from the government,â€ Hale said. He said filing for 501c3 nonprofit status and raising funds to help veterans could achieve this.
Or, one may work in conjunction with a nonprofit organization that has already been established. Another issue was that of identification for veterans. Hale suggested noting when someone is a veteran on his or her driverâ€™s license, and added a number of states already do this.
This could potentially help law enforcement realize if and when they are dealing with an individual who may be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. The initiative may also make it easier for veterans to prove their eligibility for discounts.
Hale comes from a military family, and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.