Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall expressed deep disappointment after Republicans blocked a comprehensive bill to expand crucial health care, education and job-training benefits to thousands of veterans in New Mexico and across the nation.
The Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act would have restored cost-of-living increases for all remaining future military retirees, and provided a critical expansion of VA health facilities, education assistance for post-9/11 veterans, and tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans.
"Today's procedural vote that obstructed this bill did a huge disservice to veterans in New Mexico and across the country," Udall said. "Our veterans risked their lives for our security, and we must honor our promise to provide access to the care they need and benefits they've earned. New Mexico veterans deserve better than the partisan gridlock that has prevented us from moving forward on this important legislation."
"This bill would have expanded access to VA health care, provided critical support to end the VA claims backlog, and enhanced education opportunities and incentives to get veterans back on the job. It also would have also allowed an important lease to move forward on a clinical research and pharmacy center at the Albuquerque VA facility. Further, it would have ensured future military retirees would not see benefit cuts -- cuts I have opposed," Udall continued. "It's extremely disappointing to see these important improvements tabled because of politics."
Udall had offered two amendments to the bill, including his bipartisan Rural Veterans Improvement Act, which would improve access to health care specifically for rural veterans.
"I've been talking with veterans across New Mexico and have heard their need for improved access to health care, especially in rural communities," Udall said. "This bill would help address issues such as the high turnover rate of medical professionals, lack of transportation options, and the need for increased specialized care - especially mental health care."
Udall will continue to press for improvements to rural veterans' care, as well as to advocate for a renewal of the Vow to Hire Heroes Act and other benefits in the Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act, including protections that will ensure the VA would not have to reduce or cancel services in the event of a future government shutdown.