Our nation’s veterans and military service men and women are the defenders of our freedom and we must honor the sacrifices made by those who have served our country bravely. Rep. Luján is committed to standing up for New Mexico’s veterans as he works to ensure that these brave men and women have access to the critical care and services they have earned through their service to our nation.

If you are a veteran seeking help with your VA benefits, please contact my office to open a case.

Preventing Veteran Suicide

Rep. Luján cosponsored the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act to address concerns about the need to provide greater access to mental health services for veterans returning home from war. The legislation, which is named in honor of Marine Corporal Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart and dedicated suicide prevention advocate who tragically took his own life, increases veterans’ access to mental health care, earning the support of Veterans Service Organizations, including the Military Officers Association of American and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. 

“With an estimated 22 veterans committing suicide every day – more than 8,000 each year, we are facing an epidemic that we cannot ignore,” said Rep. Luján. “The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much to protect and defend our nation, our values, and our way of life must receive the support they need and have earned. An estimated 600,000 men and women who have served in combat have traumatic brain injury, PTSD, or depression, and we must have the capacity to ensure access to the vital mental health services that can help them heal from the wounds of war.”

Supporting Opportunities for Veterans

Rep. Luján introduced legislation, which would ensure minimum wage parity for veterans seeking to further their education. Currently, veterans who are paid minimum wage through the federal “earn while you learn” Work Study program are eligible to earn whatever is higher between the state minimum wage and the federal minimum wage. However, the program does not account for local minimum wage. Rep. Lujan’s bill would ensure that veterans studying in a city with a higher local minimum wage are eligible to earn that wage. In addition, Luján cosponsored the Manufacturing Jobs for Veterans Act. This bill would accelerate skills training for U.S. veterans in manufacturing career pathways, ensure veterans have the tools needed to translate their military skills to the civilian workforce, and encourage manufacturers to recruit, hire, and train our nation’s returning heroes.

“The men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces over the course of our history are part of a proud tradition of protecting the freedoms and values of our great nation while representing the best of America,” Congressman Luján said.  “Whether it’s fighting the forces of tyranny or providing aid in a time of need, our servicemen and women put their lives on the line as they serve in harm’s way.  And every time they do so we owe them a debt of gratitude.  As we join together in communities across New Mexico to share our veterans’ stories of sacrifice and valor, we ensure that their enduring contributions will live on and the memory of their heroic efforts will burn brightly for generations to come.”

Honoring Our Veterans 

Following the disturbing reports of misconduct at VA facilities in Albuquerque and across the country, Rep. Luján worked to pass the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act. The bill aimed to address many of the failures that left veterans without timely access to health careby providing key funding to reduce the VA backlog, hire new medical personnel at VA hospitals and clinics, and allow the VA to lease new medical facilities. It was the beginning of what must be an ongoing process to make systematic reforms that honor the sacrifice of the men and women who honorably served our country. Additionally, Rep. Luján supported the modification of a rule that determines eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program, allowing veterans to seek care from a doctor outside of the VA if they are more than 40 miles by road from a VA facility, enabling more veterans to receive care closer to home.

“From the Navajo Code Talkers and the soldiers who endured the Bataan Death March in World War II to Medal of Honor recipients Leroy Petry and Hiroshi Miyamura, their stories of heroism are inspiring,” said Rep. Luján” Just as these heroes have answered the call of duty, so must we, as a community and a country, answer the call to care for them when they return home.  We must not only thank them in words, but in deeds as well.  Our veterans deserve the benefits they have been promised – from health care to education – as well as the opportunity to succeed when their service has concluded.”

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