When our nation’s servicmembers take the oath to protect and defend the United States, they were not the only ones making a promise. We as Americans also take an oath to ensure that when they return home we provide them the support and resources they and their families need. New Mexico is home to a large number of veterans, and we have a solemn responsibility make sure that we're standing up for those who took a stand for us. As a nation, we should have the highest standards for the care and assistance of our veterans and their families whether it is through medical care, housing, employment and education assistance, or disability compensation.
Even after it was publically disclosed that VA management and staff were purposely manipulating patient appointment wait times, very few individuals were fired, demoted, or held accountable in any way. We have seen the VA repeatedly fail to hold staff accountable for wrong-doing, putting our veterans’ health and wellness in jeopardy. I have voted several times for legislation to increase accountability at the VA and pushed the White House, the VA Inspector General’s Office, and the Albuquerque VA Hospital to fully investigate allegations of mismanagement, wrong-doing, and illegal activity. After working with veterans and VA whistleblowers, I published a report on the issues our office has identified with the Albuquerque VA Hospital, which I provided to both Congress and the VA.
Link to VA report
Ensuring Fair Access to Veterans Healthcare Act
Access to VA health care is a serious issue, not only at the Albuquerque VA Hospital, but across the country. The most common complaint I receive is that it is difficult for veterans and their families to navigate the massive VA bureaucracy. Veterans need a better way to navigate the VA’s red tape to report problems and resolve issues. This is why I introduced the Ensuring Fair Access to Veterans Healthcare Act, which would create and Ombudsman Office.
The Ombudsman would work independently of the VA and would be responsible for identifying, investigating, and resolving veterans’ complaints by providing veterans and their families a place to turn to receive assistance on any issue that they might be experiencing. They will also assist veterans and their families by working with patient advocates and veteran service organizations to advocate for the health, safety, and benefits of veterans.
Veterans’ Independent Living Enhancement Act
I was pleased to introduce the Veterans’ Independent Living Enhancement Act, which is bipartisan legislation to help disabled veterans live independently and participate in family and community life. The bill removes the arbitrary cap on the number of veterans eligible to participate in the Independent Living Program, which provides services to maximize independence in daily living for veterans who are too severely disabled to pursue employment.
My office has worked with hundreds of veterans on issues that they are experiencing at the VA, including health care appointment scheduling, disability compensation claims, and quality of service issues at the Albuquerque VA Hospital. If you or a loved one is having difficulty with the VA, please contact my office at 505-346-6781.