veterans

Nimfolb via Flickr / Creative Commons License

KUNM Call In Show 4/30 8a: 

Several VA healthcare facilities in New Mexico are some of the worst in the nation when it comes to wait times for appointments and case backlogs. We'll find out what veterans are experiencing when they try to get medical care, in VA facilities and elsewhere.

We'd like to hear from you! Email callinshow@kunm.org, post your comments online or call in live during the show. 

Guests:

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

The Associated Press looked at data from medical facilities for veterans around the U.S. and reported that four in New Mexico were among the worst when it comes to long waits for appointments. 

Veterans using VA clinics in Farmington, Santa Fe and Rio Rancho, and the hospital in Albuquerque, might be waiting a long time for health care. Those facilities were near the top of the AP’s list, with Farmington coming in No. 6—out of 940. 

Courtesy of Amber Royster

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.

Courtesy of Pete Comstock

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.

Marisa Demarco

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced this week that it’s decreasing the beds available at Albuquerque’s VA Medical Center—the only such inpatient facility in New Mexico.

The news that the VA is cutting the number of inpatient beds from 150 to 120 doesn’t sit right with Mike Gallegos, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart Medal recipient from Los Lunas.

Marisa Demarco

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.

Veterans Health Administration

  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.

expertinfantry via Flickr / Creative Commons License

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.

KUNM Public Health New Mexico reporter Marisa Demarco breaks it down with the highlights of public health news for 2013.

As we close in on the last few days of the election season, the KUNM News Team has been hitting the streets, trying to get a sense of what's propelling New Mexicans to cast their votes.

“My name's Romeo Rocha…”

Romeo says when his mom was pregnant with him, his dad took her to see Romeo and Juliet, hence the name.

Romeo: “Yeah when you are younger and everyone is making fun with you it seems like a curse but after awhile you get used to it.”