Tuesday News Roundup: VA Makes Progress on NM Waiting List

Jul 8, 2014

VA Makes Progress on New Mexico Waiting List - The Associated Press

The Department of Veterans Affairs has made progress in whittling down the number of new patients in New Mexico who are on the troubled health care system's electronic waiting list.

The latest audit shows there were 482 veterans on the waiting list. That's down from more than 1,040 a month ago.

The list includes new patients for whom appointments cannot be scheduled within 90 days.

Reports of patient deaths and treatment delays at VA hospitals and clinics around the country have resulted in a national outcry. Overall, audit results show tens of thousands of veterans are still waiting as long as three months for medical appointments.

Officials with the VA center in Albuquerque have acknowledged that the system in New Mexico has problems with waiting times.

Agency, Lawyers Differ On Applications BacklogThe Associated Press and Santa Fe New Mexican

The New Mexico Department of Human Services and lawyers for low-income people are at odds on whether the state is complying with a judge's order to quickly process applications for food and medical benefits.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Gonzales on May 15 ordered the department to process the backlogged applications immediately.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty has filed documents in court indicating that the number of unprocessed applications for food and Medicaid benefits grew to approximately 12,800 from just over 9,500 between the end of May and mid-June.

However, department spokesman Matt Kennicott says the backlog actually has been cut nearly in half. He says it dropped to just under 11,200, down from close to 22,200 in mid-May.

Immigration Security Help Vowed For New Mexico - The Associated Press and Carlsbad Current-Argus

Federal authorities are promising a southeastern New Mexico county that immigration officials will pay for any additional security connected to a temporary detention center.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that Eddy County Manager Rick Rudometkin said last week U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asked the county to provide backup security.

But Rudometkin says the county will have to go through a contractor to hire close 90 security personnel. He says ICE will foot the bill.

Federal officials are using Artesia's Federal Law Enforcement Training Center as a detention center for 700 Central American women and children.

The three barracks at the Artesia site will hold people as they await deportation or seek asylum amid an influx of women and children fleeing gang violence and poverty in Central America.

Unions Give $180,000 For New Mexico Campaigns - The Associated Press

Labor unions have contributed $180,000 to a Democratic-leaning political committee that was a top spender in New Mexico legislative races in 2012.

Campaign finance reports show “Patriot Majority New Mexico” received $100,000 from an American Federation of Teachers' political committee last month, and $80,000 from a committee of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in May.

The group spent about $61,000 last month for research by a Denver-based firm and nearly $19,000 for "strategic services" by a consulting firm formed by David Contarino, who was former Gov. Bill Richardson's chief of staff. Contarino lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Patriot Majority spent almost $1.4 million on races in 2012. The group can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to independently advocate the election or defeat of candidates.

Official: Application On Loading Crude Withdrawn - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

A Texas company has withdrawn an application to transfer crude oil from tank trucks to rail cars at an industrial site in New Mexico.

Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres says Dallas-based NuDeveCo Midstream Development began the application process for usage of a mothballed American Gypsum drywall plant in Bernalillo but later backed away.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that American Gypsum had a contract with BNSF Railway to use the siding.

Bernalillo residents and officials had voiced concerns about possible oil spills.

New Movie To Be Filmed In New Mexico - The Associated Press

A movie written and produced by New Mexicans is about to begin filming in and around Albuquerque.

The New Mexico Film Office says the feature "Burning Bodhi" will be produced in mid-July through the beginning of August.

The movie was written by University of New Mexico screenwriting professor Matthew McDuffie. He will also direct the film, which is being produced by Albuquerque resident Marshall Bear.

The cast includes The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco and Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen.

Firefighter Injured In NM's Jemez Mountains - The Associated Press

Authorities say a firefighter from California who was helping with fire prevention and other duties on the Santa Fe National Forest has been injured.

The Sandoval County Sheriff's Department says the firefighter either kicked or stepped on something that exploded yesterday near an intersection east of Fenton Lake State Park.

Federal authorities are now investigating.

A Santa Fe forest spokeswoman says the firefighter's injuries are non-life-threatening and he's reported to be in good spirits.

Over the weekend, Santa Fe forest personnel responded to 14 small lightning-sparked fires and one abandoned campfire.