The Legislative and Military Affairs Committee will meet, Monday, from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the Daniels Leadership Center at New Mexico Military Institute. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tim Hale and Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Alan Martinez are traveling from Santa Fe for the meeting. Legislative and Military Affairs Committee member, and State Representative Bob Wooley (R-District 66) will also attend, along with Sonja Brown of Veterans Health Care.
One of the items on the agenda is the strategic planning and federal funding of Veterans’ cemeteries, with a report from Hale. Wooley said that Hale plans to create 11 cemeteries around the state so families of veterans do not have to drive any more than 75 miles. “These will be state cemeteries rather than federal cemeteries,” he added.
The planned veterans cemetery at South Park Cemetery has yet to be opened. The land was donated by Krumland Auto Group. The fence has been put up, but the City awaits required core samples to check area water tables. The eventual goal is to have the cemetery rated to federal standards.
Other topics under discussion are access to health care and transportation to veteran’s hospitals. Currently, vets must travel to El Paso or Albuquerque for treatment. Wooley explained that the government hopes to set up some kind of fee system which would allow area vets to be treated locally.
Brown, who is VHC chief of voluntary services and public affairs operations, will provide a status report of health care in Southeast New Mexico.
Magil Duran, president of the Southeastern New Mexico Veterans’ Transportation Network and Vice President Greg Neal of SENVMTN will report about their activities. Neal admitted that overall federal funds for veterans are in short supply, although he reported that the transportation vehicles for southeast New Mexico are in good repair. “Our vehicles are in good shape. They have about 100,000 miles on them. We have kept them well maintained and we think we can squeeze 150,000 miles out of them.”
The final subject to be discussed is the importance for veterans to receive higher education, by University of New Mexico (UNM) Veterans’ Resource Center Director Mandy Dykman.
Wooley expressed concern that often veterans don’t understand their benefits. He said they can get help from Veteran Service Officer Richard Moncrief, whose offices are located at the David Chaves Federal Building.
Wooley noted that one of the biggest problems facing New Mexico vets is homelessness, but said this issue would not be addressed at this meeting.
All veterans, active-duty personnel, their families and anyone who has an interest in military or veterans’ affairs are welcome to attend this and all committee hearings.