South East New Mexico Veteran’s Transportation Network vice president Greg Neal presents attorney Stuart Shanor with a plaque Monday in recognition of his volunteer legal assistance. (Jill McLaughlin Photo)
Hundreds of veterans in southeast New Mexico are getting the medical attention they need now that the South East New Mexico Veterans Transportation Network is back on the road.
The all-volunteer transportation service group which drives vets from Roswell and surrounding rural areas to the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque thanked a local lawyer and a financial assistant this week for assisting the organization reincorporate.
Greg Neal, vice president of the organization, hand delivered plaques Monday to honor attorney Stuart Shanor of Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor & Martin and Charlotte Andrade, who volunteered her time to assist the group with financial matters.
“I was glad to have an opportunity to help. What I did for you was a very modest thing compared to the devotion and the work you and your colleagues do,” Shanor told Neal, Monday.
The organization ceased for six weeks while reorganizing.
“So many veterans were just screaming. They had no way to get anywhere,” Neal said.
The state VA health care system has an outpatient clinic in Artesia, staffed by two VA doctors, but patients must travel to Albuquerque for specialty care.
The Albuquerque medical center served 59,000 patients throughout the state last year, according to public affairs officer Sonja Brown. The center also serves parts of southern Colorado and West Texas.
“New Mexico is such a rural state, travel time can sometimes be a burden,” she said.
The state VA health care system is expanding its services through tele-medicine to cut down on patient travel.
Tele-medicine would include having the veteran look through a special camera at one location and have a doctor at another location be able to view the patient’s retina, for instance.
“We are able to hook them up with a specialist with equipment and save them a trip to Albuquerque and get that looked at right away,” Brown said.
The health care system is also expanding areas within the existing clinics by enlarging office space or providing tele-health services, including tele-nutrition, tele-dermatology and tele-mental health that would include speaking to a psychologist on a big screen instead of one-on-one.
Artesia is on the list to be expanded, said Bill Armstrong, a public affairs specialist.
“Studies have shown this type of interaction is just as effective as a person-to-person appointment,” Armstrong said.
S.E.N.M. Veteran’s Transportation Network President Magil Duran said the organization drove 228 riders since restarting in February. The four counties the organization serves contain 21,460 veterans, but the region continues to struggle with providing care to them, Duran said. The network of volunteer drivers will pick up vets at any location to get them to their appointments, with or without donations.
“It doesn’t matter where you need to go, as long as you’re a veteran, we will take you,” Duran said. “Our group is dedicated to assisting veterans.”
Sally Garza travels with her husband Gustavo twice a month to Albuquerque for a special procedure that couldn’t be done locally.
“These men are angels from God,” Sally Garza said. “He would not be alive if it were not for the rides.”
“They are trying to save us,” said her husband, an Army veteran who spent 18 months in Korea.
Roy Harlan Prescott, a Navy veteran who suffers from a breathing condition, said he must awake at 3:30 a.m., travel to Albuquerque and doesn’t get home until nearly 10 p.m. for a one-hour appointment.
“If it wasn’t for this outfit, not just me, a lot of guys couldn’t get to Albuquerque to receive the medical attention that we need,” he said.
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