Governor Susana Martinez joined members of the New Mexico National Guard today to sign legislation that will expand the state's definition of a veteran to include Guardsmen and Reserve members. Senate Bill 369, sponsored by Sen. Bill Burt (R-Alamogordo), brings the state in line with the federal definition of a veteran and will allow members of the National Guard and Reserve to be eligible for state veterans benefits after six years of service, the typical commitment required upon enlisting.
"Our citizen soldiers make an incredible sacrifice when they answer the call of duty and put
themselves in harm's way to keep their fellow New Mexicans safe and secure," said Governor
Martinez. "This legislation honors their service and commitment by ensuring that National Guard and Reserve members are given full veteran status by the state and become eligible for the benefits they have earned."
Previously, the state defined a veteran as someone who served a minimum of 90 consecutive
days on active-duty status. Since 2001, many National Guard and Reserve members have been
federally activated for periods up to one year, often numerous times. However, many other
citizen soldiers have served as National Guard or Reserve members without a federal activation,
making numerous sacrifices and placing themselves in harm's way in order to ensure the health
and safety of New Mexicans and all Americans. These public servants have often been activated
for state and national emergency situations that do not meet the 90-day threshold, such as
wildfires, floods, snow storms, hurricanes, and other domestic crises. Many have been activated
dozens of times for state-aid calls during Guard or Reserve careers spanning up to 20 years and
Governor Martinez also signed House Bill 131 and House Bill 178, which will put voluntary donation boxes for the Veterans' Enterprise Fund on state vehicle registration forms and personal income tax forms. Those donations can be put toward funding homeless veterans' grants, providing transportation to the Albuquerque VA Medical Center for disabled veterans, and funding the Veterans' Wellness Project, among other purposes. Both pieces of legislation were sponsored by Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Alamogordo).
"New Mexico's veterans stood up to serve on behalf of their country and deserve every bit of
support we can show them in return," added DVS Secretary Tim Hale, a retired Air Force
Colonel who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. "By extending benefits to the hard-working
soldiers of our National Guard and Reserve and making it easier for New Mexicans to support
veterans' projects with their generous contributions, we are making sure that we take care of
those who have protected our freedom and safety.