Joyce Applauds Success of VA Program to Improve Communication with Nation’s Heroes
WASHINGTON, DC– Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) applauded the success of the Solid Start Program, an initiative launched by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on December 2, 2019 to improve communication with outgoing service members. Specifically, the program requires the VA to reach out to new veterans three times within one year of separating from the military to ensure they are aware of the benefits and programs available to them.
On the program’s one-year anniversary this past week, the VA announced the program had successfully connected with nearly 70,000 newly separated service members. Joyce and Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) introduced H.R. 8819, the Solid Start Acton November 24, 2020, to make the program permanent and authorize the funding necessary to support it.
“In 2017, 62% of the veterans who died by suicide had not been in contact with the Veterans Health Administration in the two years leading up to their death,” said Joyce. “That is unacceptable. Our nation’s heroes shouldn’t struggle to understand or access mental health care, suicide prevention resources or any other service in the year following their discharge, separation or retirement. Thankfully, the Solid Start Program has had success helping veterans understand the resources at their disposal as they transition back to civilian life. I’m proud to have introduced a bill to make this important program a permanent one. I look forward to the day when this legislation receives a vote so that we can better connect our veterans with the benefits and services they deserve and have earned.”
The Solid Start Act would also 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 at least twice within the first year after separation;
- Prioritizing outreach to veterans who accessed mental health resources prior to separation;
- Conducting quality assurance testing to ensure calls are relevant to the needs of each individual veteran;
- 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.
You can learn more about the Solid Start Program here.