SANTA FE ― The New Mexico Department of Veterans Services announced that it has opened several rural offices in the state to help rural-area veterans on a variety of issues, including assistance with disability compensation, pension claims, health care, and dependent/survivor benefits.
The regional offices are the result of a federal grant. In addition, rural veterans also may call a new toll-free hotline to get their questions answered.
“We are excited to help more veterans and their families take advantage of our services,” NMDVS Secretary Jack Fox said. “We have a duty to make sure that our heroes – who have sacrificed so much to defend our freedom – have access to every benefit that they have earned, whether they live in a big city or in a rural area. These offices will help us do just that.”
The agency was one of only five recipients nationwide of $2 million grants created by the U.S. Veterans Health Administration and the Office of Rural Health to assist rural-area veterans.
In accordance with grant guidelines, NMDVS has created RVCP offices staffed by grant coordinators in the following five regions of New Mexico: Central (Albuquerque), Northwest (Shiprock), Northeast (Las Vegas), Southwest (Santa Clara), and Southeast (Roswell).
The coordinators will travel throughout their assigned regions to find veterans who have not enrolled in the VA health care system. The coordinators will also utilize the media to supplement their outreach.
The goal is to educate rural-area veterans about the services and programs available to them and their families. Though the focus is on identifying transitioning active-duty personnel and veterans who have recently left active-duty service, any veterans who have served will receive assistance.
The coordinators are already hard at work seeking out veterans and putting them in touch with the nearest NMDVS office, the VA regional office in Albuquerque, or an appropriate local agency to help with filing for disability compensation, pension claims, education and vocational training, life insurance, home loans, health care, transportation issues, burial assistance, and dependent/survivor benefits.
The coordinators—who have extensive knowledge of their regions and what services are available—can also put veterans in touch with non-VA agencies offering other services or programs which help veterans.
New Toll-Free Phone Number
In addition to the five regional RVCP Coordinators, the program also features a VetConnect statewide toll-free “hotline” for rural veterans and their families to access information about available services and programs for veterans in their area. That number is 1.800.672.7006.
RVCP Director Edward Mendez will oversee the program from the NMDVS Albuquerque Northeast Heights office.
The Albuquerque native comes to the agency from the New Mexico Department of Transportation—and most recently, from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, where he assisted veterans in his role as a Veteran Employment Representative (LVER) and Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) specialist.
Mendez is a veteran of the United States Navy and has served onboard the USS Duluth (LPD-6) while stationed in San Diego, Calif., and on the minesweeper USS Ardent during mine countermeasure operations in support of Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf.
He also worked in the Naval Recruiting District Office in Albuquerque. Mendez an be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505.383.2417.
RVCP Central Region Coordinator
John Griego is the RVCP Coordinator in the central New Mexico region and is based in the NMDVS Albuquerque Eagle Rock office. Griego brings a wealth of experience working with veterans to the NMDVS. He has worked with Child Protective Services, the Veterans Jail Diversion Program, and has worked on programs helping Veteran Homelessness and veterans with developmental disabilities.
The native of Chinle, Ariz., also served 17 years in the United States Army as a 19K30 M1A2 SEP Abrams Tank Armor Crew Member, having served in Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Provide Comfort, and Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo/Bosnia. He also was stationed in Korea, Germany, Ft. Hood, and Ft. Knox and earned his Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Social Work from New Mexico Highlands University. Griego can be reached at email@example.com or 505.383.2408.
RVCP NE Region Coordinator
Sarah Bustos has been hired as the NE RVCP Region Coordinator and is based in the RVCP office in Las Vegas, N.M., at 917 Douglas Ave. A native of Las Vegas, she recently earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from New Mexico Highlands University. She is engaged to U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Anthony Cantu, who served as a Cannon/Rocket Crewman from 2010-2014—the generation of veterans targeted by the RVCP. Bustos can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505.796.2109.
RVCP NW Region Coordinator
Robertson Yazzie, Jr. has been hired as the NW RVCP Region Coordinator and is based in the RVCP office in Shiprock, at Building 5080, Tachiinii Blvd, South Hwy 491. The Crownpoint native and Navajo Nation tribal member comes to the NMDVS from the Navajo Nation Tribal Office, where he worked with the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch as a Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator. Yazzie also worked with the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department as a Permanency Planning Worker.
Yazzie also is a combat veteran, having served 8.5 years active duty with the United States Army as a military police officer before being honorably discharged in 2011 as a Staff Sergeant. He was deployed twice in support of Operation Iraq freedom, and once to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
He can be contacted at email@example.com or 505.252.5987.
RVCP SW Region Coordinator
Angelina Trujillo has been hired as the SW RVCP Region Coordinator and is based in the RVCP office in Santa Clara, at 11990 U.S. Highway 180. A native of Silver City, Trujillo comes to the NMDVS from the New Mexico Department of Children, Youth & Families Department’s Child Protective Services Division, where she was an investigator for six years and a recruiter for foster and adoptive families for two years.
Trujillo has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Work from Western New Mexico University. She comes from a family with a long history of military service with the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines – with service from World War II to the current Post-9/11 war eras. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 575.912.3166.