Amber Royster is a sixth-generation New Mexican and Navy veteran who served in the Iraq War and was deployed twice overseas. She said Bernalillo County’s advisory mental health ballot question and the secretary of state’s race are her main interests this year.
She’s a registered Green Party member, and said she generally prefers to vote on issues instead of candidates. She’s voting for Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver for secretary of state because that office can allow direct issues-based questions onto the polls.
Veteran Pete Comstock was wounded in Vietnam—once by a hand grenade and once by an AK-47—and he’s recovered physically. “I have some combat trauma issues that I had to deal with as I was recovering coming back. But today, most days I’m pretty normal.”
Comstock, a Republican from Cedar Crest, relies on VA health services and said he zeroes in on issues affecting veterans during every election cycle. In particular, he wants to ensure candidates will commit funding and support to medical care for returning soldiers, address military sexual trauma and work to stop the wars.
Wednesday’s town hall was heated, as veterans gathered in Albuquerque to raise concerns about VA health care with the state’s administration.
Hands in the audience were still raised as the two-hour meeting drew to a close. Scores of veterans who got a chance to speak complained of extremely long wait times, rushed care and bad communication with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation have lots of questions for officials with the New Mexico Veterans Affairs health care system, but the answers have been few.
And more concerns are being raised by U.S. Rep. Michele Lujan Grisham following revelations that thousands of veterans were left in limbo by being assigned to a doctor who didn't actually see patients.
The New Mexico Democrat has asked for the results of an internal review of the New Mexico VA, but local officials have yet to comply.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall has called for federal authorities to broaden their investigation into alleged secret waiting lists at VA hospitals to include Albuquerque after whistleblower reports that the VA hospital in New Mexico's largest city is plagued with problems.
The Veterans Affairs Department is grappling with allegations of treatment delays, preventable deaths and a cover up by top administrators that were first reported in the VA system in Arizona.