Udall, Heinrich: New Leadership Needed at N.M. VA Medical Center

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall


WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 21, as the acting Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary visits New Mexico, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich urged the VA to move quickly to hire a qualified permanent director for New Mexico’s VA hospital to help it immediately begin the work to regain the trust of veterans and address serious problems with scheduling, emergency response, care for rural veterans and other challenges.

Numerous vacancies at the VA, including the New Mexico VA Medical Center (VAMC) director, have made it extremely difficult to make the critically important changes to better serve veterans.  

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich

New Mexico’s former VAMC Director George Marnell announced his retirement over six months ago. At that time, the senators were assured that New Mexico would have hired a new director by May. “We fear this continued delay in new leadership is adding to the already serious concerns among veterans about the VA system in New Mexico,” the senators wrote in a letter to Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson.

The senators noted in their letter that even before issues with scheduling came to light, New Mexico veterans faced challenges because of a shortage of doctors and nurses and the vast distances veterans have to travel to doctors’ appointments, among other issues unique to large, rural states. The senators urged that the VA must prioritize hiring a director who is willing to lead extensive outreach efforts throughout the state, and who will address the issues of New Mexico’s diverse veterans population.

“As you know, New Mexico’s VAMC is one of several cited by the OIG’s interim report as having management and scheduling issues,” the senators wrote. “As these investigations are conducted and the appropriate solutions are put in place, NMVAMC will need a strong, permanent director to work to regain the trust of the veterans the VA serves in New Mexico. In order to resolve the crisis in New Mexico’s VA health care system and begin to restore trust in the system, this new director must also lead effective and proactive outreach efforts within our communities.”

A copy of the letter is available HERE .