Taking Care of Our Veterans & Their Families
New Mexicans have a proud tradition of military service, and Tom is a tireless advocate for our veterans, fighting to ensure that we keep our commitment to provide them the best care possible when they return home.
Tom is fighting to help veterans affected by burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan get better care. Working with Iraq veteran Jessey Baca, of Albuquerque’s South Valley, Tom took on the VA to create a registry of veterans who developed serious illnesses after breathing toxic fumes from the U.S. military’s open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a necessary first step to helping the thousands of veterans like Jessey get better treatment.
The VA and the U.S. military didn’t want to acknowledge the impact that burn pits may have had on the health of our service members. But thanks to Tom’s work, the Burn Pit Registry was created in June 2014. Like the Agent Orange registry created after Vietnam, it will help veterans get more information and hopefully one day lead to a cure.
Tom was the first in New Mexico to call for new leadership at the VA when whistleblowers reported VA hospitals were keeping secret waiting lists for appointments. Tom called for the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and for new leadership to restore a culture of transparency and accountability at the VA. Tom called for independent and criminal investigations to examine the Albuquerque VA’s mishandling of appointment scheduling and emergency response. And he has urged the VA to work quickly to hire a new director at the medical center in Albuquerque who will be more responsive to the needs of New Mexico’s veterans.
Tom is working to expand hiring and job opportunities for our veterans when they return home to New Mexico. The first amendment Tom passed as a U.S. Senator was to expand tax incentives for employers who hire veterans who recently returned home from Iraq or Afghanistan. Tom co-wrote the 21st Century G.I. Bill, which has helped thousands of returning veterans continue their education, earn a college degree and build new career opportunities.
Tom is working to improve care for veterans in New Mexico’s rural communities. Tom introduced a bill to address the special needs of veterans living in rural New Mexico. He’s working to reduce the turnover among doctors and nurses at rural clinics, ensure mental health care is available for rural veterans, improve transportation options to help veterans get to doctors’ appointments, and modernize the VA’s outpatient clinics across New Mexico.