WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) successfully secured the passage of the Solid Start Act of 2021 through the U.S. House of Representatives. It now heads to the president’s desk to become law. The bipartisan Solid Start Act of 2021 codifies the Solid Start program that was started by the Trump administration. The program contacts every veteran three times by phone in the first year after they leave active duty to connect them with VA programs and benefits, including mental health resources.
“The transition to civilian life is not always easy. Getting this bill signed into law is one more step towards giving veterans the support they need to ensure they receive the benefits they earned,” said Dr. Cassidy.
The Solid Start Act unanimously passed through the Senate last month and was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
The VA launched the Solid Start program in December 2019 with the goal of reaching out to all newly separated veterans three times within their first year of separation to check in and help connect them to VA programs and benefits, regardless of separation type or characterization of service. The program also prioritizes outreach to veterans who accessed mental health resources prior to separation in order to quickly connect at-risk veterans to services. The bipartisan bill would codify the program and authorize sufficient funding so that it can continue to serve veterans, and also makes improvements such as:
- Helping ensure that veterans can be reached by collecting up-to-date contacting information during the transition process
- Following up by mail or other outreach if a veteran does not respond to phone calls
- Including Solid Start information in VA printed materials and on the VA website
- Providing women veterans with information that is tailored to their specific health care and benefit needs
- Connecting veterans with state and local resources, as well as local Veterans Service Organizations
Earlier this year, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office started to assess the Solid Start program to ensure that it is efficiently and effectively meeting its goals. Additionally, data released by the VA late last year showed that in the first nine months of the Solid Start program, the VA successfully contacted almost 70,000 newly separated veterans, including over 12,000 veterans who had sought mental health support in their last year of service.