WASHINGTON, DC– Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) introduced the Solid Start Act alongside Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proactively reaches out to veterans during their first year out of military service and connects them with critical services and benefits. The legislation would make permanent the Solid Start Program, a trial VA program thatcontacts every new veteran three times in their first year after exiting the service to help them navigate their transition.
“There’s a wide range of benefits and programs designated for veterans, but navigating these resources is so complicated that many of our nation’s heroes are unaware that they may qualify to receive them or that they even exist at all,” said Joyce. “This lack of clear information is having severe consequences. 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. 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 introduce this critical bill alongside Congresswoman Slotkin to make this a permanent program so that we can better connect our heroes with benefits and services they deserve and have earned.”
“We honor our veterans not just with words, but with action,” Slotkin said. “I’m proud to announce a new bill that would directly address one of the most common problems that veterans tell me they face — a lack of clear information on the benefits they’re entitled to as they begin to transition from active service. It shouldn’t be up to veterans to navigate the bureaucracy at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as they’re adjusting to civilian life. The VA should be proactively reaching out to veterans and making it as easy as possible to understand and access the benefits and services available to them.”
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 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.
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. You can learn more about the Solid Start Program here.
Joyce, who is the son of a WWII veteran, has consistently introduced and supported legislation aimed at improving veteran mental health care services and reducing veteran suicides, increasing transparency at the VA, combatting veteran homelessness, and connecting veterans with the resources they need to live happy, healthy and successful lives here at home. Lean more about actions Joyce has taken on behalf of Ohio’s 774,000 veterans and their families here.