WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) released a statement following the Senate passage of his bipartisan legislation to strengthen the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Solid Start Program, which assists veterans with their transition to civilian life by helping them connect with the VA programs and benefits they earned. Cassidy joined U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) in introducing the Solid Start Act last year.
“The transition to civilian life is not always easy. Passing this bill through the Senate is one more step towards giving veterans the support they need to ensure they receive the benefits they earned,” said Dr. Cassidy.
“I’ve talked with New Hampshire veterans about the immense challenges that many veterans face when they end their active duty service, and many are not even aware that resources are available from the VA to help with everything from getting mental health care to finding a civilian job,” said Senator Hassan. “Supporting veterans is not a partisan issue, and I am glad to have teamed up with my colleagues across the aisle on this bill to strengthen outreach to veterans. I will continue working to make sure that Granite State veterans receive the support that they need, especially after having sacrificed so much for our freedoms.”
“Making sure the brave servicemen and women have access to the benefits, healthcare, and other resources they earned is a crucial part of my role on the Veterans Affairs Committee. The Solid Start program was created by the Trump Administration to help veterans transition to civilian life. Our bill codifies this successful program to ensure veterans will have access to the support services they need. I applaud the Senate’s unanimous support and urge its final passage,” said Senator Cramer.
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.