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Chairwoman Kiggans Kicks Off Hearing on VA Law Enforcement During Police Week

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.), the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the start of the subcommittee’s oversight hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) police force, and how Congress can support the fulfillment of their mission to ensure the security and safety of all VA facilities:


Good afternoon,


The subcommittee will come to order.


Thank you all for being here today for this oversight hearing on the challenges and needs of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) police force and how Congress can support them in fulfilling their critical mission.


Before we proceed further, I ask unanimous consent for Representative Morgan Luttrell to participate in this hearing.


This week we celebrate Police Week, and I am grateful for the opportunity to highlight our brave men and women in uniform. VA Police do critical work to ensure our nation’s heroes safely receive the care and benefits they have earned. 


I would like to take a moment to say thank you to the current and former VA Police, and other first responders who have joined us today.  I am excited to welcome Chief Soto and Chief Chester, along with former VA police officer of the year Mr. Hunt.


The VA police play a vital role in ensuring the safety and security of VA facilities, employees, and the veterans they serve. In fact, many VA Police are Veterans themselves.


The stakes are high and VA police face unique challenges that make it hard for them to carry out their duties.


VA Police are often in dangerous and difficult situations. It is essential they receive the training and support necessary to handle these situations safely and effectively.


As Senate Veterans Affairs Ranking Member Moran pointed out in a recent letter, Congress must explore ways to enhance training programs for VA police officers and put the pressure on VA to provide them with tools and resources needed to protect themselves and others. VA police are often the only individuals equipped to help a Veteran who enters a facility with the intent of taking their own life.


Suicide prevention training is paramount for all police officers and is required by law, but recent data shows that it has so far not been a priority of the Department.


Another issue facing the VA police is the need for improved coordination and communication with other law enforcement agencies. The VA police, often in emergency situations, work alongside other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and it is crucial that they have effective communication channels in place to coordinate their efforts and respond to emergencies quickly.


Today, I hope to learn more about technologies and best practices that could help reduce these communication challenges.


On top of these issues, VA police have constant issues with recruitment. Through the PACT Act, Congress authorized Critical Skill Incentive payments, which can help VA police with staffing shortages due to  pay.


Congress, however, must continue to work with VA to address staffing shortages and ensure VA police have the resources they need to fulfill their mission.


VA police play a vital role in ensuring the safety and security of VA facilities and the veterans they serve. As such, Congress must make sure VA police have the tools they need to carry out their crucial mission. 


Thank you again for being here today, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on how we can best support the VA police force.


With that, I now recognize Ranking Member Mrvan for his opening comments.
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