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Hassan-Requested GAO Report Demonstrates Success of the Solid Start Program, Senator Hassan Calls for Additional Improvements to Further Support Veterans

WASHINGTON - The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released a report requested by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) that shows the success of the Solid Start program, as well as areas where improvements can be made. Under the Solid Start program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) contacts every veteran three times by phone in the first year after they leave active duty service to check in and help connect them to VA programs and benefits. Last year, the President signed into law Senator Hassan’s bipartisan Solid Start Act, which strengthens the program and makes it permanent.

“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,” said Senator Hassan. “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. There is more work to do, and I urge the VA to take additional steps, including improving connection with younger veterans and strengthening collaboration with Veterans Service Organizations. I will continue working with members of both parties, as well as veterans and organizations across New Hampshire, to ensure that those who bravely defended our freedom have the support that they need and have earned.”

The report highlighted that the VA is proactively assessing and adapting the Solid Start program to meet the needs of the veterans it is trying to reach, while also measuring outcomes to ensure that the calls are beneficial to veterans.

  1. GAO found that in 2020, a Solid Start representative successfully connected by phone with 57% of eligible veterans, which rose to 71% in 2021. For veterans who recently accessed mental health services, three-quarters connected with a Solid Start representative in 2021.
  2. GAO also found that veterans who spoke with their Solid Start representative had a higher rate of using a number of VA’s benefits. For example, VA data showed 44% of veterans who picked up a Solid Start call enrolled in VA health care, compared to only 7% of veterans who the VA was not able to reach.

The report also noted that outreach challenges remain, including communicating with younger veterans and hard-to-reach veterans. The GAO recommended that the VA increase its collaboration with organizations serving veterans to get their help and advice on addressing these challenges.

Senator Hassan, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is taking action to strengthen support for veterans. For example, the year-end funding bill included Senator Hassan’s bipartisan legislation that directs the VA to designate one week per year as “Buddy Check Week” to organize outreach events and educate veterans on how to conduct peer wellness checks. This summer, the President signed into law Senator Hassan and colleagues’ historic, bipartisan military toxic exposure bill. The President also signed into law Senator Hassan and colleagues’ Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act of 2021 to direct the VA to create a program to recruit military medical personnel who have less than one year left in their service to work in federal health care occupations at the VA.