Kiggans on fact finding mission to improve service for women veterans

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) calls it the “quality of life” side of the defense budget.

The veteran Navy helicopter pilot held a roundtable discussion Wednesday afternoon at Oberndorf Central Library to discuss the needs of women veterans.

There’s a wide array of benefits for veterans, but sometimes the pathways to accessing those benefits aren’t always clear. Kiggans wanted to hear what can be done on Capitol Hill to make it a smoother process.

She serves on both the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees. Kiggans said women in the military serve many roles once they have completed their service.

“Veteran business owners, veteran caregivers, we’re trying to reach out to different subsets and see what issues we can improve on,” she told the panel, which included veterans as well as representatives from veterans service agencies.

Kathleen Owens, who serves on the Virginia Board of Veterans Services, said getting data from the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington can be quite a battle.

“It’s very difficult to get that information,” Owens said. “The VA is one of the best sources to get that information. Sometimes it’s a challenge for them to share that kind of information.”

But Owens also pointed to a new care center that will open in Virginia Beach on Veterans Day near the Virginia Beach courthouse. It will provide a key medical service — memory care.

“It’s an urgent need because there aren’t enough memory care centers for veterans,” Owens said. “One of (Virginia’s) goals is to be the number one state for veterans, and providing this care will help keep veterans in Virginia.”

Kiggans said she’s already held several of these round tables and is on a fact-finding mission.

“We are working moms, we are working spouses, even single moms,” Kiggans said. “So I want to know what kind of issues that they care about, where I could be helpful to bring them back to Washington D.C., to hopefully put meaningful legislation in place.”

One veteran on the panel took issue with what she sees as the tendency in Congress to treat Veterans Benefits like they would Medicaid.

“These are earned benefits,” she said, “not entitlements.”

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