More than 150 women veterans attended the Sixth Annual New Mexico Women Veterans Conference in Albuquerque. Courtesy/NMDVS
NMVAHCS Director Andrew Welch thanks the women in attendance for their military service. Courtesy/NMDVS
ALBUQUERQUE—Women veterans representing every branch of service and dating back to World War II attended the Sixth Annual New Mexico Women Veterans Conference today at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid Hotel.
The purpose of the conference, which was presented by the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services (NMDVS), the New Mexico VA Health Care System (NMVAHCS) and Women Veterans of New Mexico, was to educate women veterans about their available veterans benefits–everything from health care, counseling and other VA programs, to state and other federal benefits. It was free for women veterans, Guard/Reserve and transitioning active-duty personnel.
NMDVS Secretary Jack Fox welcomes the crowd during the Opening Ceremony. Courtesy/NMDVS
Retired Air Force Colonel and current NMVAHCS Women Veterans Program Manager Tanya McKinney started the day with a presentation emphasizing women-specific acute, primary, preventative, and behavioral health care offered by the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque.
“I cannot emphasize enough how much VA health care has changed—especially for women,” McKinney said. “We have changed with the times. Women veterans now receive the very latest and best health care offered by any medical facility in the country.”
NMVAHCS representatives also gave a presentation about programs specifically for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This is not your father’s VA system,” said NMVAHCS Director Andrew Welch during his morning address to the more than 150 women in attendance. “Women are the fastest-growing segment in the veteran population—and we have grown and changed to better serve women.”
There were also presentations about additional VA benefits, pensions, adaptive sports programs—as well as information by other presenters about Social Security benefits, aging and long-term care benefits, and vocational rehabilitation programs available by the state.
NMDVS Veterans Service Officer Theresa Zuni and NMDVS State Approving Agency Director Marilyn Dykman presented information about available state veterans’ benefits—ranging from property tax exemptions for veterans, special license plates, free park and museum passes.
Dykman presented information about how the agency oversees universities, colleges and vocational training programs available for use by a veteran’s G.I. Educational Benefit Bill.
Women play an important part in today’s military, said NMDVS Secretary Jack Fox in his Welcome Address. He said it is therefore important that they know about these and many other benefits available to them as military veterans.
“Women have come a long way in today’s military. No longer are you behind the scenes or stuck in offices,” Secretary Fox said. “You are veterans serving in combat zones now—just like your male counterparts. You have earned your veterans’ benefits, thanks to your service and sacrifice for our country.”
According to the latest VA data, of the country’s 21.6 million veterans – 2,035,213 million are women; roughly equivalent to the size of the entire general population of New Mexico. Of New Mexico’s 171,528 veterans—16,743 are women.