Ahead of Arizona’s Senate election, Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema came to the University of Arizona on Thursday to discuss unique issues encountered by military-connected students with the student-veteran community.
Before Sinema entered the Veterans Education and Transition Services office, where the discussion was held, Stephen Westby, the Director of Mentor Services for VETS reminded the crowd: “Please remember, we are not here to talk about political issues. We’re here to talk about veteran and dependent related issues, so please, keep it limited to that.”
When the congresswoman entered she was shown to her seat in a small circle, where she was surrounded by student-veterans. She offered smile and hello, and then she began the discussion by asking each of the participants to introduce themselves with their name, former branch of service, and major.
Throughout the introductions, Sinema joked with the student-veterans and frequently remembered meeting various student-veterans in previous years.
After each of the discussion participants was introduced, Sinema explained why the issues faced by the military community are so important to her: her older brother is a retired marine, and her younger brother is active duty in the Navy.
Sinema continued by explaining that she understood that the transition from active duty to civilian life is a difficult one, and that she wanted to develop a better understanding of how she could better aid veteran’s transition to civilian life.
The conversation revolved mostly around the experiences of individual veterans with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of the discussion participants expressed frustration at how slow the department moved as a whole.
Two student-veterans voiced concern over the long delays that they encountered while waiting for financial support from the VA. Sinema referred them to one of her staffers, instructed them to fill out a form and ensured them that she would help get them their compensation as soon as possible.
More veterans brought up the unwieldy process of scheduling appointments through the VA, to which Sinema offered anecdotal support of their concerns.
“If I wake up with strep throat – I get strep throat all the time – I get out my phone and I make an appointment at the Walgreens Minute Clinic or the CVS clinic, and I show right up for the first appointment … 15 minutes later, they’ve done the strep test and I’ve got my prescription and I walk out the door,” Sinema said. “But in your system — you can’t wait 14 days to get medication for strep throat. “
In her opening remarks, Congresswoman Sinema voiced her feelings about sitting down to discuss issues with the UA student-veterans. “I’m very excited to be here and talking with you guys … taking care of veterans and making sure they get what they need is my top priority," she said.
Throughout the entire discussion, Sinema listened, asked multiple clarifying questions, and often turned to her aides to take notes on specific issues.
According to her campaign website, Sinema loves to meet with everyday Arizonans' to help solve their problems.
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