Senators pursue bill to connect veterans with VA within 7 days of leaving service
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — Two members of the U.S. Senate are proposing bipartisan legislation to reduce the risk of veteran suicides by requiring federal officials to reach out to them within three weeks of ending their military service.
The measure would compel the Department of Veterans Affairs to send a veteran’s information to the local VA center within a week of a veteran’s departure from the military.
The local VA officials then have to reach out to the veteran within two weeks of getting that information.
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H,. and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., have coauthored the measure that both pursued after research has shown the suicide risk for veterans increases dramatically during the first three months of separation from the military.
“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,” Hassan said.
“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.”
Hassan’s 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.
“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 service members will have more immediate access to the high-quality readjustment counseling they need and have earned,” Chanin Nuntavong, executive director of government affairs for the American Legion, said in a statement.
“We applaud Senators Hassan and Cramer for introducing this common-sense legislation which will make VA’s efforts to support transitioning service members more timely, efficient, and accessible.”
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