By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Transportation to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ facilities was among topics that most interested area residents on Tuesday at Mesalands Community College.
Iris Chavez, a representative of U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, fielded the questions that mostly focused on access to federal government services.
“People think that we are here only to campaign for the Senator,” Chavez said. “The truth is, there is no campaigning at the mobile office hours.”
Tucumcari Mayor Pro Tem Robert Lumpkin said transportation to VA facilities is always an issue for small communities.
“The visits by Sen. Heinrich and his staff shows us they have a genuine interest in helping our area,” Lumpkin said.
Chavez said there could be a grant available to help an organization like the VFW Post 2528 purchase vans that could take area veterans for medical services
Another issue that rural New Mexico residents have to deal with is contacting officials at the Internal Revenue Service, said Amanda Hammer, Mesalands’ director of business services.
Hammer said she has personally had difficulties trying to contact someone at the state regional offices.
“I was placed on hold several times for extended periods of times,” Hammer said. “A couple of times I was disconnected and had to start all over.”
Chavez said the staff of Sen. Heinrich’s offices have been contacted several times about issues with the three regional offices of the IRS. She said in one instance a resident of Hobbs had to travel to the IRS office in Las Cruces to resolve an issue.
“Our office is looking for a way to make the IRS services available to rural residents,” Chavez said.
Chavez said reaching out to rural residents is vital to ensuring the constituents are properly represented. She said there is no issue too big or small and she encouraged residents to attend future events.
Chavez said services she and other representatives can help with include veteran benefits, Social Security benefits, federal grants and student services.
For more information contact Iris Chavez at the Roswell office 575-622-7113.