From the Office of U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández issued the following statement after U.S. Senators announced that they will not move forward with the AIR Commission process.
This will effectively prevent the closure of the Española, Gallup, Las Vegas and Raton veterans health clinics:
“Over the last few months, I listened to veterans in Raton, Las Vegas, Española, and Gallup describe how the VA community health clinics provided them access to essential care. I carried their stories and worries about losing these clinics to my colleagues and to Secretary McDonough.,” Rep. Leger Fernández said. “We promised the vets we would do everything we could to keep the clinics open and the Senate action to halt the AIR Commission keeps that promise. The veterans earned the right to receive care wherever they live. Now it’s time to focus on increasing care at our rural clinics and for our vets – from increased mental health in the STRONG Act to addressing harm from burn pits in the PACT Act.”
In March, the Veterans Affairs Health Care System announced that it sent its market assessment to the Assets and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission and recommended the closure of 4 veterans health clinics in Española, Gallup, Las Vegas, and Raton. Combined, these clinics serve 4,717 New Mexico veterans in largely rural areas.
Since the announcement, Rep. Leger Fernández repeatedly raised her opposition to the closure of the four clinics, all of which are located in her congressional district. She visited each of the clinics and listened to hundreds of veterans impacted by the proposed closures in the towns and villages surrounding the clinics. These closures would have put veterans’ health at risk and made it harder for them to receive essential health services. After the announcement, the Congresswoman immediately sent a letter to VA Secretary McDonough regarding her opposition to the recommended closings. Last week, she sent a letter with her New Mexico delegation colleagues urging Secretary McDonough to visit the Las Vegas or Raton veteran health clinics, both of which lacked any alternative plan for providing services.
In June, Rep. Leger Fernández separately voted for the STRONG Veterans Act, which passed the House with bipartisan support. This legislation would improve mental health services, including for suicide prevention, for veterans. The Congresswoman also supported the PACT Act, which increases funding for the VA and addresses the multiple health concerns related to burn pits.