House Passes Joyce Bill to Connect Veterans with Critical Services, Benefits
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan, bicameral legislation spearheaded by Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI-08). The bill, the Solid Start Act, will ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reaches out to veterans during their first year out of military service and proactively connects them with critical services and benefits. Specifically, the Solid Start Act would make permanent the Solid Start Program, a trial VA program that contacts every new veteran three times in their first year after exiting the service to help them navigate their transition. The bipartisan legislation is now on its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“Veterans shouldn’t struggle to understand or access mental health care, education benefits, or any other critical resource or service as they transition back to civilian life,” said Joyce. “As the son of a World War II veteran, I refuse to allow the brave men and women who have served our country to slip through the cracks. I was proud to introduce this bill to successfully connect veterans with the resources at their disposal following their discharge, separation or retirement and am eager for it to be signed into law.”
The Solid Start Program was launched by the VA in 2019. It was designed to provide outgoing service members with multiple forms of outreach from the VA within one year of separating from the military to ensure they are aware of the benefits and programs available to them through the VA. It also prioritizes outreach to veterans who accessed mental health resources prior to leaving military service in order to best serve at-risk veterans. Since the program’s inception, the VA has confirmed that the program had successfully connected with over 157,000 newly separated service members. You can learn more about the Solid Start Program here.
In addition to making the Solid Start Program permanent, this legislation also authorizes the funding necessary to support the program and implement improvements to the program by requiring the Government Accountability Office to assess the program’s effectiveness and specifying the following key requirements:
- Calling each veteran three times within the first year after separation;
- Prioritizing outreach to veterans who accessed mental health resources prior to separation;
- Providing women veterans with information that is tailored to their specific health care and benefit needs;
- Conducting quality assurance testing to ensure calls are relevant to the needs of each individual veteran;
- Providing information to veterans on access to State and local resources, including Vet Centers and veteran services organizations;
- Collecting up-to-date contact information throughout the transition process;
- Encouraging transitioning veterans to authorize alternate points of contact in the event the veteran is unavailable by direct outreach from the VA;
- Following up on missed phone calls and other forms of outreach to ensure the veteran still receives information about VA resources and services;
- Including Solid Start information in VA booklets, on the website, and through other resources; and
- Striving to reach veterans who separated prior to the beginning of the Solid Start program in 2019 to offer them similar explanations of resources.