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Senator Hassan, American Legion Discuss Importance of “Buddy Checks” to Help Improve Veterans’ Mental Health Amid Pandemic During Committee Hearing

Senator Hassan Recently Joined in Introducing Bipartisan Legislation to Designate One Week per Year as “Buddy Check Week”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan participated in a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing today where she spoke with James “Bill” Oxford, National Commander of The American Legion, about the importance of conducting peer wellness checks – otherwise known as “Buddy Checks” – to connect veterans with their peers and help ensure that they are receiving the care that they need.  

 

To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.

 

This week, Senator Hassan joined Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) in reintroducing bipartisan legislation for the Department of Veterans Affairs (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 and recognize signs of suicide risk among fellow veterans.

 

“I am grateful to The American Legion for what it has done to launch the Buddy Check program, something you launched in March of 2019, to encourage members to reach out and check in on local veterans who may be struggling,” Senator Hassan said.

 

Oxford spoke about how the need for the Buddy Check program has grown amid the COVID-19 pandemic: “The isolationism, the separation-ism – all of those were affecting the mental health of a lot of veterans. As we continue to do our Buddy Checks it became more evident about the criticality [and] the need for that. That’s why we were supporting the Buddy Check Week bill at the VA and will continue to do that.”

 

Senator Hassan also brought up concerns that she heard about from women veterans in New Hampshire during a virtual roundtable last month about the desire for women veterans, particularly in rural areas, to have a way to connect with other women veterans in their area.

 

“That may be something we can all work on together as well so that in more rural areas our women veterans have a sense of who their peers are and how they can connect with them,” Senator Hassan said.

 

Oxford told the Senator that the American Legion would be happy to work with her on addressing that concern.

 

Senator Hassan is focused on supporting veterans as a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and is working on bipartisan efforts to strengthen the VA’s Solid Start program, which aims to contact every veteran multiple times by phone in the first year after they separate from the military to check in and help connect them to VA programs and benefits. Senator Hassan also joined in introducing the bipartisan Deborah Sampson Actwhich is now law, that will help eliminate barriers to care and services for many women veterans.

 

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