Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Heinrich Statement on the President's Speech in Afghanistan

U.S. Senate candidate Martin Heinrich released the following statement in response to President Obama's address from Afghanistan tonight:

It is time to end the combat operations in Afghanistan. A nation at war comes at a great cost to its people. Our brave men and women in uniform have made incredible sacrifices over the last decade. It is time to bring them home to their families.”

Heinrich, currently serving his second term on the House Armed Service Committee, traveled to Afghanistan nearly two years ago to Kabul and Kandahar to meet with troops, military and diplomatic leaders, and humanitarian workers in the region.

May 2, 2012 at 10:50 AM in 2012 NM Senate Race, Afghanistan, Military Affairs, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Guest blog: All Military Families Deserve the Benefits they have Earned

EQNM-Nick Rimmer Headshot-2012-3-18Guest blog provided by: Nick Rimmer is a graduate of the UNM School of Law, and serves as Associate Director of Equality New Mexico.

Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner pledged to continue defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court—this time against a challenge brought by members of the US armed forces who claim that the law unconstitutionally denies them access to over 100 family benefits that are otherwise offered to all other active duty personnel and veterans. These include housing allowances, surviving spousal benefits, the ability to apply for joint duty assignments, among others.  DOMA denies these benefits to our enlisted men and women, as well as veterans, because the Department of Defense grants certain family benefits on the basis of regulations that define the terms  “spouse” or “marriage”, terms that must be interpreted to mean opposite-sex spouses because of DOMA.

Speaker Boehner’s defense of DOMA in this case demonstrates his willingness to protect a glaring inequality in how we treat many of those who have chosen to serve in our nation’s armed forces. The fact of the matter is that enlisted men and women risk their lives defending our country against harm, yet they are denied the right to fully protect and marry the one’s they love once they return home because of who they are.

The litigation in question, known as McMcLaughlin v. Panetta, was filed on behalf of gay troops and veterans by the Service members Legal Defense Network and Chadbourne & Parke LLC; the lawsuit is now pending before the District Court of Massachusetts. The case centers largely around Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, a Lesbian in the New Hampshire National Guard, who has been diagnosed with stage-four, incurable breast cancer and is seeking survivor benefits that are awarded to veterans in opposite-sex marriages for her spouse, Karen Morgan.

Should Speaker Boehner succeed in court, Ms. Morgan would be ineligible to receive the benefits that her wife has earned through her service. Perhaps before proceeding with his lawsuit, Speaker Boehner should ask himself a few simple questions: do the same-sex partners of our enlisted men and women sacrifice any less when their loved ones are deployed? Do they feel any less pain in the event that their loved ones never return home? Of course not. Why then should they be denied the ability to provide for, and protect their families in the same ways afforded to all other military families?

Speaker Boehner’s decision to go-it-alone in defending DOMA also reflects a problem with setting priorities. After the Obama administration instructed Congress that it would no longer defend DOMA, on the grounds that the president considers the law to be unconstitutional, Republican leaders in congress appropriated $750,000 in legal fees to defend the law. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office now estimates that the cost of defending DOMA may easily reach $1.5 million by the end of the year. President Obama is not alone in thinking that DOMA is unconstitutional; every federal court that has ruled on the law to date has come to the same conclusion. At a time of soaring deficits, it is disappointing that House Republicans seem willing to spend millions of dollars on defending this unconstitutional law while asking for deep cuts in education and vital programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

When it comes to continuing their quixotic defense of DOMA in this case, House Republicans have a simple choice: focus on getting the economy back on track, or spend millions of dollars defending a law that denies benefits to thousands of military families.

March 19, 2012 at 05:49 PM in GLBT Rights, Guest Blogger, Military Affairs, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Senator Udall Co-sponsors Burn Pit Amendment to Help Veterans

Press release from Senator Udalls office. Defense Authorization Amendment Creates Registry for Open-Air Burn Pit Victims. There is a couple in our community whom has been suffering from this travesty. Jessy and Maria Baca.

Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today offered a bipartisan amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to create a national registry of service members and veterans impacted by open air burn pits, helping identify and take better care of those affected.  Joining them as co-sponsors of the amendment are Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Mark Udall (D-Colo.).The amendment is identical to the senators' Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011, introduced earlier this month.

As early as 2002, U.S. military installations in Afghanistan and Iraq began to rely on open-air burn pits to dispose of waste materials. The U.S. Department of Defense made frequent use of burn pits at a number of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan despite concerns about air pollution.

The amendment creates a similar registry to the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Registry. The establishment of an open burn pit registry will help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determine to what extent air pollution, caused by open air burn pits, has led to medical diseases among service members. The amendment will also serve as a vehicle for improved communication and information dissemination for affected veterans.

"There are veterans in New Mexico today suffering from invisible wounds due to their exposure to open-air burn pits," said Tom Udall (NM). "Creating this registry is a crucial first step to identifying these victims and getting them the help they need."

"Establishing this registry will help us understand the consequences of using open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Corker. "Our men and women in uniform who served in close proximity to these pits certainly deserve to understand how that service may have impacted their health and what resources may be available to them."

"Establishing an open burn pit registry will allow veterans to build a record of the health problems they have encountered because of their service," Bingaman said. 

"Creating a registry is just one way we can help those affected by burn pits get the care they need," said Bill Nelson (Fla.)

“We all know that the men and women of our Armed Services risk their very lives to protect us, but what some might not realize is that many are also exposed to toxins and hazardous materials that could affect their lifelong health, and such veterans deserve all the medical help they need when they get home,” Alexander said.

"The toxic chemicals produced by open burn pits created a serious health risk for our brave men and women serving overseas."  McCaskill said.  "My office has worked with one victim from St. Louis and has seen the very real challenges veterans harmed by burn pits face, which is why this legislation is so important.  Just because an illness is new or complex does not mean we can let those veterans who are suffering, very likely because of their burn pit exposure, slip through the cracks.  We owe our full support to those who have served and sacrificed, especially when they become sick as a result of their service."

"Our heroes' health may be seriously impacted from the use of burn pits in combat zones, and we owe it to those affected to collect all the information necessary to properly take care of them when they get home," Mark Udall (CO) said.  "This registry will help create a database of those who have been exposed to burn pits and improve communication so that important health services can actually get to them.”

The amendment will:
  • Establish and maintain an open burn pit registry for those individuals who may have been exposed during their military service;
  • Include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines applicable to possible health effects of this exposure;
  • Develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the registry;
  • Periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pit exposure;
  • Require an assessment and report to Congress by an independent scientific organization.

November 21, 2011 at 04:05 PM in Sen. Tom Udall, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rep. Heinrich holding a Veterans Telephone Town Hall Meeting

Heinrich with troop
PHOTO ABOVE: Martin Heinrich meets with troops in Afghanistan, June 2, 2010. Rep. Heinrich, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, traveled to Kabul and Kandahar with a bipartisan congressional delegation to meet with military and diplomatic leaders in the region, and U.S. troops and humanitarian workers from New Mexico.

Congressman Heinrich invites you to participate in a special telephone town hall meeting with me on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss issues of importance to New Mexico’s veterans and their families. Register by Nov. 14 online or call (505) 346-6781

With one-in-five veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 returning from Iraq and Afghanistan looking for work, I'm focused on making sure our veterans have the necessary tools to navigate a difficult labor market and succeed in the civilian workforce. Last week, I introduced the Wounded Warriors Employment Opportunity Act to provide a tax credit to employers that hire service-disabled veterans. And earlier this year, I introduced the Jobs for Veterans Act of 2011, which would provide entrepreneurial training, counseling, and procurement assistance to veteran-owned small businesses.

Our troops develop valuable skills and professionalism while in the armed forces, yet they still face difficulty when applying for jobs in the civilian workforce. This is especially true for our wounded warriors. As more and more troops come home and transition into civilian life, it is our duty as a nation to honor their sacrifices and help them find jobs.

I thank our veterans for their immeasurable service. It is an honor to represent you in Congress. My staff and I are always on-hand to provide top-notch service and assistance with accessing veterans benefits and programs. Please continue to keep me informed of the issues important to you and how we can do more for New Mexico’s veterans.

November 13, 2011 at 01:26 PM in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Taos Townspeople Serve Those Who Have Served This Country

From the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and the Sierra Club:

Today, hundreds of Taos residents converged on Taos Plaza to honor local veterans and to participate in a Sierra Club and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps-sponsored service project to beautify the public space. Citizens spruced up the plaza and broke ground for a memorial tree planting.

“Today we honored our veterans by asking the community to serve those who have served us,” said Kristina Ortez de Jones of the Sierra Club. “Spending time outdoors provides immeasurable benefits for those who have suffered from stress and depression.  This outdoors service project is one way we can start to repay the soldiers for their commitment to our country and get us all outside on Veterans Day.”

Soldiers returning home suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression at higher rates than the civilian population.  Approximately 20 veterans and active duty soldiers commit suicide every day.

“One way to help veterans assimilate back into civilian life is to provide them with an alternative outlet and connection with nature,” said Mark Lemke, a veteran and Sierra Club’s Mission Outdoors Apprentice. “Nature and the outdoors can be a salve for the wounded soldier.”

“Community service benefits everyone in ways that we are only beginning to discover, and I encourage everyone to spend some time volunteering. Before serving in the Navy, I spent two terms as an AmeriCorps member at Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.   I felt the pride of accomplishment associated with community service and wish this for everyone,” Pascual Maestas, AmeriCorps Member, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps recognizes and engages the strengths and potential of youth through team service in schools, communities and the landscapes of northern New Mexico.  To learn more, please visit www.youthcorps.org.

Mission Outdoors in Taos, New Mexico is committed to creating outdoor experiences for children, youth and families, so that everyone has the opportunity to explore and enjoy our natural heritage.  For more information, please visit www.sierraclub.org/missionoutdoors.

November 11, 2011 at 04:52 PM in Taos, Veterans, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)

DPNM Chairman Recognizes Sacrifice of Veterans; Observes Veteran’s Day

Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman Javier M. Gonzales released the following statement in observance of Veteran’s Day:

“This Friday, November 11 marks the 92nd time that members of the military have been honored, appreciated and remembered for their service on Veteran's Day,” said Gonzales.

“Whether Air Force or Marines, Army or Navy, New Mexico veterans all share one common aspect – courage. Courage to join in the name of freedom, courage to fulfill their duties or die doing so, and courage to continue life after all they have seen and experienced.”   

“The Democratic Party of New Mexico is proud of and supports every U.S. Armed Forces member, old and young, who has served, is serving or has made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States. This Veteran’s Day please take time to recognize the selfless acts of these brave men and women and thank them for the sacrifices they have made out of love of our country.”

November 11, 2011 at 02:09 PM in Democratic Party, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marty Chavez Statement on Veterans Day

Former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez released the following statement in commemoration of Veterans Day:

“Today we renew our commitment to the men and women who have served our nation admirably in the armed services.  As those serving overseas return home from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we must continue to improve and strengthen the support we provide as a nation to our veterans and their families.

“I'm proud that during my administration Albuquerque built the New Mexico Veterans Memorial, Museum and Conference Center and in Congress, I will fight to ensure that our veterans get the healthcare, job training and educational opportunities that they have earned and deserve.” 

November 11, 2011 at 01:35 PM in Martin Chavez, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Luján Statement Celebrating Veterans Day

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District released the following statement today in celebration of Veterans Day, November 11.

“This Veterans Day, we honor the brave service of New Mexico’s veterans and our veterans around the world, paying our respects for the sacrifices they made to help keep our nation safe.  Generations of brave New Mexicans have been willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect our country and the values that we hold dear.  And for that we owe them a debt of gratitude.  They are part of New Mexico’s long and proud tradition of service in the Armed Forces. 

“Their valor serves as an inspiration to a grateful nation.  When our nation needed them most, they heeded the call to serve.  I believe we must thank our veterans not only through our words, but through our deeds as well.  It is our duty to honor the commitment our nation made to care for our veterans when they return home.  Just as they have been there for us, we must be there for them.

“Sadly, too many of our nation’s heroes face significant challenges upon returning home.  During this difficult economic time, we see too many of our veterans struggling to find work to support their families.  That is why, just last week, I introduced legislation to help put our veterans back to work.  It encourages businesses to hire those who served in our Armed Forces by providing tax credits for every veteran that is hired.  It also recognizes the innovative efforts that states have taken to assist in employing veterans and provides them with vital funding to continue their critical work.

“Just this afternoon, the Senate passed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act to increase job opportunities or our nation’s veterans.  I urge leaders in the House to bring this bill up for a vote and support America’s heroes.

“How we treat our brave servicemen and women when they return home is a measure of the strength of our country.  That is why I was proud to support efforts to increase funding for the VA and make investments that address both the physical and mental health needs of our returning troops.

“As we thank our veterans for their service, let us also keep in our hearts the memory of those men and women who did not return from the field of battle – those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  And let us continue to remember all of those still serving in harm’s way and hope for their safe and speedy return home.”

November 11, 2011 at 01:28 PM in Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Udall Statement on Veterans Day and Passage of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) issued the following statement today commemorating Veterans Day and lauding passage of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act in the U.S. Senate:

"The first piece of legislation I succeeded in passing in the Senate, was an amendment to the Recovery Act to expand tax incentives for employers who hire recently returned veterans. We have a duty to help veterans to get a good job when they come home, and this policy helped in that effort, but it expired in 2010.

"Today the Senate renewed its commitment to veterans by passing the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. This bipartisan bill will help vets transition their specialized skills to civilian jobs and renews tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans and in particular, wounded warriors. Now, the House should quickly act to pass it so it can become the law of the land.

"This vote is a fitting tribute to veterans but we have much more to do. America's commitment to our veterans must be as strong as their commitment to defending our freedom. As U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan comes to a close, our commitment to generations of veterans must only grow stronger.  We have a responsibility to remember their sacrifices, not just on Veterans Day, but everyday."

November 11, 2011 at 01:18 PM in Sen. Tom Udall, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NM-1: Eric Griego Releases Veterans Platform

Eric Griego Campaign released the following statement:

Today, Democrat Eric Griego (NM-1) issued his platform for veterans to honor their sacrifice for our country.

Statement by Eric Griego

I know the personal sacrifices that veterans and military families make because several of my own family members serve or have served in our military.

I humbly believe with all of my heart that we have a solemn obligation to honor our promise to America’s active and reserve servicemen and women, veterans and their families.  Just as they have bravely sacrificed for our nation’s security, our government should ensure they get the care and support they have earned and deserve.

That is why, as Congressman I will fight for:

Full funding for VA hospitals, improved rural area access to VA hospitals and clinics, and cutting bureaucratic red tape to expedite care delivery.

  • Improved treatment access to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental and physical disabilities.
  • Increased funding for veteran housing facilities to reduce veteran homelessness.
  •  Educational and job opportunities for veterans and their families, and guarantee federal government support for all veterans who wish to go to college and support stronger preferential hiring practices in the public sector for veterans.
  • Changes to the Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP) so that no active or reserve serviceman or woman is denied retirement and disability benefits.

November 10, 2011 at 11:08 PM in Eric Griego, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Udall Bill Would Help Treat Vets With PTSD, TBI in Southern New Mexico

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has introduced legislation that he says would improve access to specialist medical care for veterans in southern New Mexico who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Senator Jeff Bingaman is an original co-sponsor. Veterans in recent conflicts have suffered from high rates of PTSD and TBI as a result of their combat experiences, and treatment has often been inadequate or difficult to access.

The bill, called the Southern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas - Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Care Improvement Act of 2011, calls for a report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on the feasibility of a new polytrauma rehabilitation center or polytrauma network site in southern New Mexico. It also asks the agency to specifically examine whether the Ft. Bayard medical center in Silver City would be a good fit for the center.

Udall says he developed the idea for the legislation after leading a discussion last fall at Ft. Bayard with New Mexico Veterans Secretary John Garcia on PTSD and other issues facing veterans. During that meeting, it was revealed that one of the biggest challenges facing veterans in southern New Mexico is finding treatment for these "invisible" wounds, which have become the signature injuries from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

“Veterans who have risked their lives for our country deserve convenient access to the best of care when they return home," Udall said. "Using the old Ft. Bayard medical center for a new polytrauma facility would be a win-win for the region –- it would provide veterans with much-needed, convenient access to specialty care through the innovative use of a facility that is currently being underutilized.”

“The VA should be constantly evaluating how it can best treat our nation’s veterans, and I think this study would be an important one,” Bingaman said. “Given the lack of specialized treatment centers anywhere near our southern New Mexico military bases, I hope that the VA determines that a location in our state, such as Fort Bayard, is ideal for a center that can treat veterans for these types of injuries.”

Despite southern New Mexico’s multiple military bases, there is not a single polytrauma rehabilitation center within 300 miles of any of these facilities. Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, more than 45,000 veterans have been diagnosed with a TBI-related condition. As a result of that increase, polytrauma centers have become vitally important sources of care for returning veterans.

In addition to a report on the feasibility of establishing a polytrauma rehab center in the southern New Mexico region, the legislation also asks for the Department of Veterans Affairs to assess the adequacy of existing VA facilities in the region and their ability to deal challenges in serving a growing veteran population. The legislation also has provisions to ensure local government agencies are consulted on the issue as appropriate.

The bill has received local support from the Village of Santa Clara, District 39 N.M. State Representative Rudy Martinez, The Operation Fort Bayard Task Force of Fort Bayard, New Mexico and the Grant County Commission.

June 27, 2011 at 10:02 AM in Healthcare, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

3/15: NM Citizens to Rally to Defend the American Dream on Albuquerque Plaza

On Tuesday, March 15, local MoveOn members will gather in Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza at 3rd and Tijeras to defend the American Dream. The event will highlight the attacks on the American Dream and workers’ rights that Republicans are making, at both the state and national level, and will hold Governor Martinez and Congressman Steve Pierce accountable for supporting the Republicans’ immoral budget proposal.

Click to sign up for the event. Click for flyer (pdf) and please post and/or pass along to your friends.

The Republicans recently proposed more than $100 billion in cuts to the federal budget, which would result in deep funding cuts for the children under 5 years old in Head Start, for low-income students in Education for the Disadvantaged programs, for students in higher education receiving Pell Grants, job training and employment assistance for the unemployed through the Workforce Investment Act, as well as cuts to Community Development grants, funds to assure clear and safe water, and law enforcement assistance. At the event, participants will also stand in solidarity with Wisconsin workers, who had many of their rights stripped from them last week in a Republican power grab.

On top of cutting dozens of government programs that hundreds of millions of Americans rely on, the proposed Republican budget cuts would also fire 65,000 teachers, kill 700,000 jobs and send 10,000 veterans into homelessness. That includes at least 4,300 jobs in New Mexico alone.

“We’re here today to say enough is enough. Last week, Wisconsin Republicans rammed through their attack on workers' rights in a shocking power grab, and Congress is poised to strike a horrible deal on the federal budget, gutting health care, environmental protections, and housing assistance, among many other things,” said Gregory Sandoval, a local MoveOn member. “We want to make it clear to Congressman Pierce that by supporting the Republicans’ incredibly dangerous budget proposal, he is launching an assault on the American Dream. Instead of punishing working Americans, we should invest in America by making corporations and millionaires pay their fair share.”

WHAT: Rally to Defend the American Dream of Workers

WHO: MoveOn members

WHERE: Albuquerque Civic Plaza at 3rd St. & Tijeras Avenue NW

WHEN: Tuesday, March 15, 5:30 to 6:30 PM

RSVP: Defend the Dream Action

MoveOn.org Political Action is a political action committee powered by 5 million progressive Americans. We believe in the power of small donors and grassroots action to elect progressive leaders to office and to advance a progressive agenda. We do not accept any donations over $5,000, and the average donation to MoveOn.org Political Action is under $100.

March 13, 2011 at 11:19 AM in Economy, Populism, Education, Events, Jobs, Labor, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (1)