Joyce Reintroduces Bill to Better Connect Veterans with Critical Services and Benefits

Apr 22, 2021
Press
Veterans

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) re-introduced the Solid Start Act alongside Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) to 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 bipartisan legislation 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.  

“Our nation’s heroes shouldn’t struggle to understand or access mental health care, education benefits, suicide prevention resources or any other service in the year following their discharge, separation or retirement,” said Joyce. “But the reality is that navigating the wide range of benefits and programs designed for veterans is so complicated that many are unaware that they might qualify for them or that these services even exist at all. 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’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation so that the Solid Start Program can continue to successfully connect veterans with the resources at their disposal as they transition back to civilian life.”

“The Solid Start program continues to be an important asset to veterans just as they leave the military and are transitioning back to civilian life,” said Slotkin. “It’s shocking to me the sheer number of veterans across Mid-Michigan who simply aren’t aware of the services and benefits available to set them up for a successful transition. As a military spouse and step-mom, and as someone who served alongside our troops in Iraq, I know how tough this adjustment can be, and it shouldn’t be up to brand new veterans to navigate the bureaucracy at the VA right as they’re trying to settle into civilian life. We owe it to our service members to do everything in our power to help them start this new chapter off on the right foot. The Solid Start program will help connect at-risk veterans with everything from mental health treatment to career training and development, and making it a permanent program is a critical step in bridging the communication gap between our service members and the VA.”

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. On the program’s one-year anniversary in December of 2020, the VA announced the program had successfully connected with nearly 70,000 newly separated service members. You can learn more about the Solid Start Program here.  

In addition to making the Solid Start Program a permanent one, this legislation would also authorize 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.
     

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