Bill Would Connect Veterans to VA Vet Centers Near Them to Provide Resources and Support During Transition to Civilian Life
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) are introducing bipartisan legislation today to help connect newly separated veterans - who are often at the highest risk for suicide - with critical mental health support through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill aims to 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.
“Challenges for our service members don’t end when they take off the uniform. We must support veterans when they get home and transition to civilian life, including promoting access to mental health care,” said Senator Hassan. “It is imperative that we cut down on red tape and more quickly connect veterans to VA services, to make sure that they can get the care that they need, when they need. I’m pleased to join Senator Cramer in introducing this bipartisan bill and look forward to continuing to work with New Hampshire’s veterans to support them.”
“Leaving active duty can be a very challenging time for our service members, yet many of them do not know help is available during that transition or where they can receive it,” said Senator Cramer. “Our bill would help immediately connect veterans with personalized, available mental health services at a critical point in their return to civilian life.”
“The American Legion is pleased to support the Vet Center Outreach Act,” said Chanin Nuntavong Executive Director of Government Affairs for the American Legion. “Transitioning from active-duty service to civilian life can be a difficult time with its own set of unique challenges. By ensuring that local VA Vet Centers have the tools to reach out to newly separated veterans within seven days of separation, transitioning servicemembers will have more immediate access to the high-quality readjustment counseling they need and have earned. We applaud Senators Hassan and Cramer for introducing this commonsense legislation which will make VA’s efforts to support transitioning servicemembers more timely, efficient, and accessible.”
Veterans are the most vulnerable to suicide within the first three months following separation from military service. To help address this and other challenges that veterans face, the bipartisan Vet Center Outreach Act would require the VA to send an alert to a local VA Vet Center nearest to where a veteran resides within seven days of that veteran separating from the military, along with information that can help the VA Vet Center engage in personalized outreach to the veteran.
Vet Centers are VA community-based counseling centers that provide a wide range of mental health support and resources to eligible veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components, and their families. These centers also offer readjustment counseling to help ease a veteran's transition from military to civilian life or after a traumatic event experienced in the military.
There are three VA Vet Centers that service New Hampshire veterans: Manchester Vet Center, Berlin Vet Center, and White River Junction Vet Center.
This bill builds on Senator Hassan’s ongoing work to provide more resources and support to veterans. Earlier this year, Senator Hassan’s bipartisan legislation to help veterans during their transition to civilian life passed out of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee on which she serves. Recently, President Biden signed into law the PAWS Act, legislation Senator Hassan supported, to expand access to service dogs for veterans. Senator Hassan also helped secure key priorities for Granite State veterans in the bipartisan veterans package that was signed into law earlier this year, including the Deborah Sampson Act, which Senator Hassan joined in introducing to eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face.