Veterans say Allen Weh Used their Image Without Permission in Ad Depicting Terrorist Killer

Weh Once Again Takes Advantage of Others for Personal Gain

Just a week after Allen Weh released an ad that was widely criticized for its appalling use of an image from the execution of American journalist James Foley, Weh is trying to ward off criticism with another video defending himself.

Weh’s latest ad begins with video footage of New Mexico veterans. The problem? These veterans don’t support Allen Weh and never gave permission to use their images in an Allen Weh campaign ad. Click HERE for video.

“I would never support Allen Weh or his policies. I’m disgusted that he used the image of that terrorist in his commercial – and I’m outraged that he would try to put me in his campaign ad, especially an ad where he’s implying that I support him. Mr. Weh, you should do the right thing and remove this ad,” said Napoleon Quintana, a Vietnam veteran from Las Vegas, N.M.

“The truth is, veterans like me and my friends support Tom Udall. He has been there for us, he met with us, and he is working for us. Tom Udall came to meet with us in Las Vegas we talked about improving care for veterans in rural areas, and he is already delivering. I think Allen Weh should remove his ad,” said José Salas, also a Vietnam veteran from Las Vegas, N.M.

Said Sam Bregman, DPNM Chairman: “Weh earlier found himself in hot water with the U.S. Marine Corps because he illegally used footage of active-duty uniformed Marines from recruiting ads without getting permission. Later Weh got a strong backlash of criticism for his use of an image from the execution video of journalist James Foley, despite the family’s request for people not to share the video. Now Allen Weh is making it absolutely clear that he fully intends to take advantage of anyone in any way he can to produce campaign ads.”

Watch and share today’s video.

Senator Tom Udall: Audit Shows ‘Unacceptable’ Wait Times, Confirms VA Provided Inaccurate Information

Udall calls for DOJ investigation of possible criminal wrongdoing at clinics nationwide

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall responded to the results of a nationwide audit of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health facilities, which found New Mexico’s veterans wait an average of 46 days for primary care and identified New Mexico as being one of a select number of facilities that need a follow-up investigation.

Udall called in May for the audit of the VA health care network covering New Mexico, Arizona and Texas (VISN 18), and former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced a nationwide audit the next day. Udall has also called for an independent investigation by the VA Inspector General (IG) into New Mexico’s VA system.

While today’s audit report evaluated wait times and patient health outcomes, the VA IG is investigating allegations that VA employees were deliberately falsifying records about waiting lists. In the wake of evidence that VA employees may also have broken federal laws, Udall today joined a bipartisan group of senators writing to Attorney General Eric Holder, calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take a leadership role in the IG investigations.

Additionally, the Senate is expected to vote as early as this week on legislation Udall cosponsored that would change the culture at the VA, by giving VA officials the authority to immediately remove senior executives based on poor job performance. The bill would shorten wait times for veterans by enabling them to seek care at community health centers, military hospitals, or in some cases private doctors.

Udall issued the following statement:

“What has happened at the VA is a betrayal of our veterans – men and women who fought for our freedom – and it is unacceptable. According to the audit, 3,485 New Mexico veterans were on an electronic waiting list for over 30 days, and our wait times for new patients are longer than average-over 45 days for primary care. These findings mirror complaints I have heard from veterans, family members and VA whistleblowers – concerns that the VA initially said were unfounded. The audit again confirms that the VA has not been open and honest with the public or with me about systemic problems with patient wait times.

“Last week, I spoke with the VA’s Inspector General, who will examine whether employees were gaming the system nationwide and in New Mexico and identify whether there was criminal wrongdoing. But the evidence showing VA employees at health centers across the country kept secret waiting lists, falsified records, and destroyed documents, among other potential crimes, is appalling. That is why I’m pushing for Justice Department federal investigators to step in and take a leadership role nationally and ensure that anyone responsible for abuses is held accountable through criminal prosecution.

“Many veterans like their care at the VA-but they need to get in the door to benefit from it. I’m continuing to light a fire under the VA from the top on down to make sure we keep the solemn promise we made to our veterans to provide them with the best care possible. As early as this week, the Senate will consider legislation to restore transparency and accountability and improve access to care at the VA. I urge the Senate to move quickly to pass it.”

Udall is continuing to receive information from veterans, family members and whistleblowers through calls to his office and a link on his website: tomudall.senate.gov/veterans. Last week, Udall spoke with the Acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin and urged him to make the investigation in New Mexico a top priority. He also sent an initial submission of whistleblower information for the IG to follow up on.

Full text of the letter to Holder is below and a copy is available HERE:

Senators Udall and Heinrich Call for VA Secretary Shinseki to Step Down

U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall each issued statements yesterday afternoon calling for Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. U.S. Senator Tom Udall issued the following statement calling for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down:

“Independent investigators at the VA are now confirming what I have been saying for weeks: that the problems at the VA are systemic and rooted in a culture that has rewarded cover-ups and cheating to the point of risking the health of our veterans. What I have heard from New Mexico veterans and read in the OIG report is a betrayal of the heroes who fought for our freedom. It’s clear to me that Secretary Shinseki must step down to make way for new leadership that can restore accountability and transparency and ensure veterans in New Mexico and nationwide get the care they have earned.”

Also today, Udall announced that he will submit his first report to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) based on what he has heard from New Mexico veterans, family members and others, who have contacted his office. Earlier this month, Udall urged veterans with concerns about mismanagement of the scheduling system or other problems to contact the OIG or his office by phone or via a special page on his website: tomudall.senate.gov/veterans. He has since received numerous calls and emails from veterans who reported problems similar to those at the Phoenix VA.

“I have called for an immediate investigation of New Mexico’s VA. The veterans and others who have contacted me have reported very serious concerns with the scheduling system and other issues that have directly affected the level of care they are receiving. We must get to the bottom of this — and fast. I continue to urge those with knowledge of VA scheduling manipulation in New Mexico to contact the OIG or my office. We cannot stop until the VA health system has comprehensive reform and the resources it needs. Veterans deserve nothing less than the best health care we can provide.”

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich  issued the following statement today calling for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down as head of the VA after a preliminary report released by the agency’s office of inspector general found that least 1,700 veterans waiting for health care services at the Phoenix VA medical facility were not included on the facility’s wait list, and patients there waited an average of 115 days for their first appointments. The interim report also found that inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic at VA medical facilities nationwide, including manipulation of wait times to see a doctor.

“I have a mountain of respect for what General Shinseki has done in service to our country, but our nation’s veterans deserve nothing less than the very best service our nation has to offer. Tragically, that has not always been the case. The fact that veterans in Phoenix were left off waiting lists and that veterans waited an average of 115 days for their first appointments is absolutely unacceptable. Furthermore, the confirmation of problems being systemic and not limited to Phoenix, is even more disturbing.

“Over the years I’ve met and known many people, particularly in the New Mexico VA system; doctors, nurses, physical therapists and others, who work tirelessly and effectively on behalf of the men and women who have served this country. This week I visited the regional VA facility in Albuquerque and many of the veterans that I spoke to there were complimentary of their treatment. But even one veteran slipping through the cracks anywhere in the nation is one too many.

“I call on President Obama to appoint a new Secretary who will provide the leadership and management that our nation’s veterans need and deserve. I will continue working in the U.S. Senate to provide the VA with the resources it needs to fulfill the promises we made to every veteran who volunteered to serve our country.”

Senator Tom Udall Introduces Bill to Improve Care for Veterans with Hearing Loss

U.S. Senator Tom Udall announced yesterday that he has joined Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) to introduce a bill to improve health care for veterans with service-connected hearing disabilities. Congressmen Sean Duffy (R-WI) and Tim Walz (D-MN) introduced a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill seeks to improve access to hearing aid services for veterans by allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to hire hearing aid specialists, and requiring the VA to produce a report on timely access to hearing health services, staffing levels, and performance measures related to appointments.

Hearing loss and tinnitus – or ringing in the ears – are the most prevalent service-connected disabilities among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. However, a recent VA audit indicated inappropriate staffing levels and delays in the delivery of services at VA clinics, causing many veterans to wait for long periods for their hearing health care needs to be met. Hearing loss is linked to chronic conditions such as depression, heightened stress, and fatigue, so proper treatment is essential for veterans as they reintegrate into civilian society.

“Our military service men and women make great sacrifices to protect our freedoms, and many return home with seen and unseen injuries, including hearing loss. Hearing loss doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it can dramatically affect one’s ability to interact with others at home and in the workplace,” Udall said. “Fortunately, quality care can make a world of difference for a hearing-impaired veteran, and I urge Congress to pass this commonsense bill.”

The VA currently relies on audiologists, many of whom are contracted, to treat hearing related disabilities. The bill would expand the pool of hearing health care providers to include hearing aid specialists, which would help to address staffing deficiencies and make the delivery of care more effective and efficient.

The bill is supported by veterans’ advocacy groups, including AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Vets First. Medical organizations also endorse the bill, including the National Medical Association and the International Hearing Society.

The “Fit To Serve” campaign, created by the International Hearing Society, is devoted to providing America’s veterans with the proper hearing health care they deserve.

“Fit to Serve is very pleased to have Senator Udall join the fight for improved hearing healthcare for our nation’s Veterans,” said First Sergeant Matthew Eversmann, U.S. Army (Ret.), National Honorary Spokesperson for Fit to Serve, who suffered hearing loss as a result of combat as depicted in the book and film “Black Hawk Down.” “His support of S. 2311 speaks volumes about his commitment to the men and women in uniform who have served our country.”

Senator Tom Udall Disappointed Crucial Veterans Bill Has Been Blocked by Senate Republicans

Obstruction a disservice to New Mexico veterans who have earned benefits to help with war injuries, unemployment, Udall says

Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall expressed deep disappointment after Republicans blocked a comprehensive bill to expand crucial health care, education and job-training benefits to thousands of veterans in New Mexico and across the nation.

The Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act would have restored cost-of-living increases for all remaining future military retirees, and provided a critical expansion of VA health facilities, education assistance for post-9/11 veterans, and tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans.

“Today’s procedural vote that obstructed this bill did a huge disservice to veterans in New Mexico and across the country,” Udall said. “Our veterans risked their lives for our security, and we must honor our promise to provide access to the care they need and benefits they’ve earned. New Mexico veterans deserve better than the partisan gridlock that has prevented us from moving forward on this important legislation.”

“This bill would have expanded access to VA health care, provided critical support to end the VA claims backlog, and enhanced education opportunities and incentives to get veterans back on the job. It also would have also allowed an important lease to move forward on a clinical research and pharmacy center at the Albuquerque VA facility. Further, it would have ensured future military retirees would not see benefit cuts — cuts I have opposed,” Udall continued. “It’s extremely disappointing to see these important improvements tabled because of politics.”

Udall had offered two amendments to the bill, including his bipartisan Rural Veterans Improvement Act, which would improve access to health care specifically for rural veterans.

“I’ve been talking with veterans across New Mexico and have heard their need for improved access to health care, especially in rural communities,” Udall said. “This bill would help address issues such as the high turnover rate of medical professionals, lack of transportation options, and the need for increased specialized care – especially mental health care.”

Udall will continue to press for improvements to rural veterans’ care, as well as to advocate for a renewal of the Vow to Hire Heroes Act and other benefits in the Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act, including protections that will ensure the VA would not have to reduce or cancel services in the event of a future government shutdown.

Senator Heinrich Votes To Advance Comprehensive Veterans Benefits Package

Bill Restores Full COLA for Military Retirees and
Includes Key Provisions for New Mexico’s Veterans

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) voted to advance an omnibus veterans bill that includes key provisions he fought for on behalf of veterans and military families across New Mexico.

S.1982, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act, introduced by the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Bernie Sanders, and cosponsored by Senator Heinrich, passed by a vote of 99-0 today — clearing the way for a Senate debate on the bill.

The omnibus veterans bill includes language from the Veterans Benefits Claims Faster Filing Act, legislation Senator Heinrich introduced last June, which requires the Secretary of the Veterans Administration to ensure every veteran is informed of the vast differences in times for processing compensation claims when filing a fully developed claim versus a non-fully developed claim.

“Too many veterans are waiting far too long to receive the benefits they have earned. I’m pleased to have secured this important provision to help accelerate the claims process and reduce the backlog,” said Senator Heinrich.

The veterans omnibus bill also includes a measure cosponsored by Senator Heinrich to provide “advanced appropriations” for all VA spending accounts. This would ensure veterans receive uninterrupted access to earned benefits even in the midst of a government shutdown, like the one that occurred last fall.

“This commonsense proposal strengthens our commitment to our men and women in uniform who have risked their lives to protect our country. Breaking the disability claims backlog is one of my top priorities and accelerating the disability claims process is one way to do that. I am also proud to have helped lead the effort to ensure that our former service members don’t fall victim to partisan politics of a government shutdown. New Mexico is home to more than 170,000 veterans, and I will continue to work to guarantee they receive the benefits and quality care that they have earned,” said Senator Heinrich.

Additionally, the veterans omnibus bill authorizes $9.56 million for a major medical facility lease in Albuquerque for the Clinical Research and Pharmacy Coordinating Center (CRPCC). The CRPCC supports clinical trials conducted to improve the health care of veterans and the nation and is the only facility of its type in the VA or federal government.

The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act also includes:

Restoration of Full COLA for Military Retirees: This legislation would restore full cost-of-living adjustments for all military retirees.

VA Health Care and Dental Care Expansion: This legislation includes provisions that would expand access to VA health care — including complementary and alternative medicine — and dental care, in a cost-effective and equitable way.

Advanced Appropriations for VA: This legislation would ensure veterans receive consistent access to the benefits they have earned by establishing advanced appropriations for the mandatory accounts at VA.

In-State Tuition Assistance for Post-9/11 Veterans: This legislation would give our transitioning service members a fair shot at attaining their educational goals without incurring an additional financial burden.

Renew Our VOW to Hire Heroes: This legislation would reauthorize provisions from the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, including a two-year extension for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program.

Sexual Assault: This legislation contains important provisions that would improve the delivery of care and benefits to veterans who experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military, which were inspired by Ruth Moore who struggled for 23-years to receive VA disability compensation.

Reproductive Health: This legislation would help female and male veterans who have suffered significant spinal cord, reproductive and urinary tract injuries start a family.

Service Members Civil Relief Act: This legislation would enhance and improve the protections of the Service Members Civil Relief Act, which are of particular importance to members of the Reserve Components during periods of active military service.

Expands the Caregivers Program: This legislation would provide caregiver benefits to veterans of all generations in a similar manner as post-9/11 veterans.

Senator Udall Introduces Bill to Improve Health Care for Rural Veterans

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced a bill to address some of the biggest barriers to health care for veterans in rural communities.

More than 6 million veterans, including a third of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, live in rural communities. But as many as half of those veterans may be going without care from the VA. Rural veterans too often struggle to access quality care because it isn’t available locally. For some, traveling to and from an appointment can take all day. Veterans who can’t drive must rely on neighbors or volunteers to get to appointments, and many simply go without adequate care.

Udall and Heller’s “Rural Veterans Improvement Act” takes a four-pronged approach to improve and help veterans access care by:

  • Enhancing mental health care options by allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work with nonVA mental health providers in rural communities.
  • Building on the VA’s transportation program to ensure more veterans living in rural areas have a way to get to doctors’ appointments.
  • Creating programs and incentives to attract and retain doctors and nurses to rural VA health care facilities.
  • Requiring the VA to conduct a full assessment of its community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) to determine what improvements are needed and prioritize those projects.

“I’ve met with veterans across New Mexico, some of whom have to drive four hours or more to get to a VA hospital. Many rural veterans are also frustrated with the lack of health care options and the frequent turnover among staff at their local clinics. Rural veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from TBI and PTSD also often don’t have adequate access to mental health care in their communities,” Udall said. “I’m pleased to join Senator Heller in introducing this bipartisan bill to help address these challenges and enable veterans to get better quality and access to care where and when they need it.”

“Our brave men and women have sacrificed a great deal to safeguard our freedoms, and it is imperative that Congress meets their needs, no matter where they live. By guaranteeing availability of mental health professionals, increasing access to efficient transportation options, and enhancing our rural VA facilities, we can ensure rural veterans receive the same level of care that veterans in urban areas receive. It is an honor to partner with Senator Udall in a bipartisan effort to provide veterans with the benefits they earned,” said Heller.

More detail on the bill’s provisions follows:

Mental Health Care Enhancement: Too many veterans are suffering from PTSD, TBI, and other service connected mental health issues without access to the care that they deserve. Veterans who are not able to access adequate mental health care are also at a higher risk of committing suicide. Many veterans do not respond to traditional forms of therapy for their service connected disability and options for alternative and complementary medicine are not widely available to veterans living in rural and highly rural areas. This bill address this gap in care by:

  • Making fee-for-service available to veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, or other service connected mental health issues under certain conditions where treatment at a clinic serving rural veterans is not available or where treatment options such as complementary or alternative medicine, including traditional Native American healing methods are not available.

Improving Transportation in Rural Areas: For a veteran living in rural areas, getting to appointments at larger VHA medical facilities for more than basic care can be a major logistical challenge. Older veterans who are unable to travel without support may put off needed treatments because of the distance. The bill attempts to address this issue by building on the current grant program to support veterans in highly rural areas. It:

  • Authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a grant program to provide options to provide innovative transportation options to veterans in rural areas.
  • Does not require matching funds for grants up to $100,000 max.

Retaining and Training Health Care Professionals: Rural and highly rural veterans struggle with high turnover among the doctors and staff at rural clinics. This bill addresses the issue of staff retention by:

  • Creating a pilot program that would offer financial incentives to reduce turnover among rural clinic staff.
  • Working with university medical programs to create curriculum for rural health care training to better prepare doctors and nurses for work in rural communities.
  • Streamlining the hiring of military medical professionals into the Veterans Health Care system.

Rural Veterans Affairs Facilities Improvement: To help prioritize repairs and expansions, the bill would require a full assessment of VA CBOCs. With tight budgets, this will help save money and improve care for vets.

  • The bill also requires a report to Congress on the feasibility and advisability of expanding Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers or Polytrauma Network sites, which treat victims of multiple traumatic injuries, such as serious head injuries and burns.