Following Push from Senator Hassan, VA Working to Connect Veterans with Local VA Vet Centers
During Senate Hearing, Senator Hassan Urges VA to Fully Implement Goals of Her Bipartisan Bill to Connect Veterans to Mental Health Services
WASHINGTON – A top official at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) told U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan today that the VA is working to implement elements of Senator Hassan’s bipartisan bill to connect newly separated veterans with their local VA Vet Centers. The bill, which Senator Hassan introduced with Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) earlier this month, would help ensure that the VA quickly connects new veterans with local VA Vet Centers that can provide tailored, professional counseling to help eligible veterans during their transition to civilian life.
To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning at today’s hearing, click here.
“New Hampshire is home to two VA Vet Centers, and I often hear from veterans about how they wish they could have connected to these mental health resources sooner to support their adjustment to civilian life,” Senator Hassan said. “I have a bipartisan bill with Senator Cramer that would require VA Vet Centers to contact recently separated veterans to raise awareness about the services available to them.”
Lawrencia Pierce, a top VA official, spoke about the importance of connecting newly-separated veterans to VA Vet Centers. “It’s a benefit because the Vet Centers provide free services and counseling, even when they’re on active duty, and then they have that wraparound care as well once they separate. So it is confidential, it’s free, and it’s a community integrator,” said Pierce.
Pierce went on to discuss how the VA is now working to ensure that local VA Vet Centers can reach out directly to veterans per Senator Hassan’s bill. However, Pierce stated that the national VA currently does not have requirements in place to reach out to a local VA Vet Center within seven days of a veteran separating from the military – which is required under Senator Hassan’s bill.
Senator Hassan then pushed the VA to fully implement the goals of the bill so that veterans can quickly be connected to a VA Vet Center. Newly separated veterans are often at the highest risk for suicide in their first year after separating from active duty.
“What I would like to do is make sure that this is an obligation that you all are required by law to follow rather than too much flexibility because at the end of the day, this is about getting veterans the support they need and saving lives,” Senator Hassan said.
In addition, Senator Hassan continues to push for passage of her bipartisan bill so that the VA is always required to swiftly connect veterans to their local VA Vet Centers, regardless of any potential changes in administrations’ policies.
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