U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján secured commitments from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel to improve quality of care and address chronic infrastructure problems at clinics in northern New Mexico. During a meeting Thursday, Dr. Petzel assured the New Mexico lawmakers that the VA was aware of the problems and would do everything in its power to address them, including meeting the January 2014 deadline for opening a new community-based outpatient clinic in Raton.
The meeting was a follow up to a letter Senator Heinrich and Congressman Luján sent to Dr. Petzel in April outlining the issues with the community-based outpatient clinics in Santa Fe, Raton, Gallup, Las Vegas, and Taos, including expediting upgrades and addressing safety, confidentiality, and access problems in the interim.
"We must be unwavering in our commitment to our men and women in uniform who have been promised more than just words of gratitude for their sacrifice when they return home. We owe our veterans the quality care and benefits that they have earned," said Senator Heinrich. "I'm pleased with the progress Congressman Luján and I made with the Under Secretary, but I will not rest until the concerns of the community are heard and these problems are resolved."
"Our nation made a promise to our veterans that they will receive the care they need in return for their brave service to our country," said Congressman Luján. "New Mexico's veterans upheld their end, serving with dedication and distinction to protect the freedoms we hold dear. They have earned quality and timely access to health care, yet for too many New Mexico veterans the services they receive do not meet the standards they deserve. While I am encouraged by our meeting with the Under Secretary, I will continue to work with Senator Heinrich to push the VA to act quickly to improve the quality of care our veterans receive at clinics across New Mexico."
"I am absolutely committed to providing the best health care for the Veterans who rely on the Community Based Outpatient Clinics in northern New Mexico for their care. I plan to visit the area to ensure improvements are being made," said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Petzel.