AUGUSTA (AP) – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says female military veterans are less likely than their male counterparts to seek out federal benefits to which they are entitled.

But officials from the V.A.’s Togus Medical and Regional Office Center in Augusta are trying to change that.

A one-day “Women Veterans Expo” to get more women to sign up for benefits and services they’ve earned was held Saturday at Togus. About 1,200 people, including spouses of veterans and children, attended.

The veterans were also urged to document exposure to any chemicals or substances that may be hazardous to their health so they can make a claim later if necessary.

“Women veterans are perhaps one of the most underserved parts of the veterans area, that’s one of the reason we wanted to put on this event,” Dale Demers, director of the V.A. regional office, told a crowd of women veterans Saturday.

Officials sought to debunk a perception among some women veterans that if they did not serve in combat, they are not eligible for benefits.

The Center for Women Veterans, which Congress created in 1994, helps the nation’s 1.7 million women veterans to receive benefits and services on a par with their male counterparts.

Each veterans center is required to have a coordinator for women veterans’ services.

Officials encourage veterans still on active duty but contemplating retirement to attend a transition assistance briefing to learn what benefits they have earned.

Maine women have a long history of serving in the military and obtaining veterans’ benefits from the government, said Lynda Petty of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ women veterans program.

“At one time you may have approached the V.A. and not felt very welcome. It definitely was our fathers’ V.A.,” Petty told the women Saturday. “But we’ve changed that so it is now your fathers’ and mothers’ V.A.”

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