Senator Hassan Worked Across the Aisle Last Year to Pass a Law to Strengthen and Make Permanent this Veterans Program.
Military Times Called the Solid Start Program “One of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Most Effective Outreach Efforts.”
WASHINGTON -- In case you missed it, Military Times reported on a recently released GAO report requested by Senator Maggie Hassan that showed the effectiveness of the Solid Start program, which requires the VA to reach out to newly separated veterans at least three times in their first year after military service. Last year, the President signed into law Senator Hassan’s bipartisan Solid Start Act, which strengthens the program and makes it permanent.
Click here to read the Military Times article or see below:
When VA calls, veterans listen
By Leo Shane III
One of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ most effective outreach efforts may be a simple telephone call to ask veterans if they have any questions.
According to data to be released later this week by the Government Accountability Office, staffers in the VA Solid Start program were able to connect with more than 70% of recently separated servicemembers in fiscal 2021 to discuss health care benefits, program offerings and other veteran-related questions.
That figure (which amounts to more than 137,000 completed calls) was up from about 57% in fiscal 2020. Fiscal 2022 figures were around the same level as 2021 but incomplete as the GAO report was finished.
Veterans who spoke with the department representatives were more likely to use their education benefits, apply for disability payouts, enroll in VA health care and access job training opportunities.
“VA data showed that about 44% of veterans who were successfully contacted enrolled in VA health care, compared to about 7% percent of veterans who were not,” the GAO analysis states.
“[The] program connects new veterans to crucial benefits and resources to help overcome significant difficulties they may face in reintegrating to civilian life.”
The Solid Start program was launched in late 2019 as an effort to more actively inform veterans of available resources and assistance as they transitioned from military to civilian life.
It includes three calls from VA officials to new veterans within their first year of separation — one after 90 days, one after 180 days and one near the 365-day mark — to “inform [veterans] about what to expect during this critical time and help [them] build a solid start to [their] civilian life.”
The program was codified by Congress in 2021. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee member Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., was the chief proponent of that move and called the latest results from the program encouraging.
“The Solid Start program is an essential way to better meet the needs of our country’s veterans, ensuring that they are aware of the VA services and support that can help ease their transition to civilian life,” she said in a statement.
“I was glad to work with Republicans and Democrats to enshrine this program into law, and this GAO report shows that the VA is successfully taking proactive action to contact veterans and connect them with VA services, including for mental health care.”
However, she also noted areas of future improvement detailed by the GAO.