Gov. Susana Martinez announced her support in a press release Dec. 21 for legislation which would expand the definition of a veteran under state law in order to include more members of the National Guard and Reserve units.
“The state currently defines a veteran as someone who has served a minimum of ninety days consecutively on active-duty status. The governor’s office is calling for a change in definition to allow any Guard or Reserve member to be fully “veteran-eligible” after completing six years of Guard or Reserve status — the typical length of service one commits when initially signing up.
It‘s time that we honor and recognize the service of all of our citizen soldiers and the sacrifices they make when answering the call to serve our state and our country. These brave men and women often have to leave their full-time jobs and their families at a moment‘s notice. Their dedication to protect and serve us is worthy of their elevation to full veteran status and all of the benefits that entails.
Since 2001, many National Guard and Reserve members have been federally activated for periods up to one year, often numerous times. However, many other citizen soldiers have served as National Guard members or Reserve members without a federal activation, making many sacrifices and placing themselves in harm‘s way in order to ensure the health and safety of New Mexicans and all Americans. These public servants have often been activated only for state and national emergencies such as wildfires, floods, snow storms, hurricanes, and other domestic crises. In many cases they have never served the requisite period to be considered for state veterans‘ benefits. Many have been activated dozens of times for of state-aid calls during Guard or Reserve careers spanning more than 20 years.
By expanding the definition of a veteran under state law, New Mexico would be on par with the federal definition of a veteran. It would allow all Guard and Reserve members who have completed six years of service to apply for all state veterans‘ benefits, in addition to any eligible VA health and education benefits for veterans.”