N.M. first in vets disability, compensation
Alamogordo Daily News
Daily News Report
Posted: 01/14/2009 12:00:00 AM MST

According to an independent study, New Mexico ranks No. 1 in the nation for the average federal Veterans Affairs disability compensation and pension payment, and in the average disability and compensation payment collected by veterans diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

The study was conducted by the Institute for Defense Analyses, a non-partisan organization commissioned by the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs to compile a detailed scientific study of state and regional VA care for veterans.

The IDA found that the average disability and compensation payment to a veteran living in New Mexico is $12,395 about $600 more than second-place Maine and $3,500 more than the nationwide average payment of $8,895.

"I'm extremely proud of our top-ranking," said New Mexico Department of Veterans' Services Cabinet Secretary John Garcia. "We have a strong partnership with the regional VA office in Albuquerque and several statewide veteran service organizations. Together, we work to reach out to New Mexico's 180,000 veterans and get them every benefit they're entitled to."

The NMDVS has 17 field offices statewide staffed by certified nationally accredited and highly trained veteran's service officers who help veterans file for state and federal benefits and services.

New Mexico is also top-ranked for the average disability and compensation payment to a veteran diagnosed with PTSD. It totals $24,227, about $560 more than Maine, and $3,778 more than the national average of $20,449.

PTSD and traumatic brain injuries are "signature" disabilities suffered by veterans serving in the current war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 30,000 military personnel have been discharged from service and live in New Mexico. Nationwide, VA studies show at least 25 percent of veterans who served in the combat zone suffer from PTSD or TBI.

New Mexico also ranks first in the nation in the average disability compensation paid to veterans who've served in the Army ($13,990), Marines ($14,983) and Navy ($11,813).

The work of the NMDVS is getting noticed across the country. Recently, the department has received phone calls from media in Ohio and Nevada doing stories comparing the difference in service of veterans between top-ranked states and bottom-ranked states.