Brian Mast Backs Proposal to Improve VA’s Efforts to Help Veterans During First Year in Civilian Life

A congressman from the Sunshine State is backing a proposal to help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) do a better job of helping veterans during their first year back in civilian life.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., brought out the “Solid Start Reporting Act” which will create “ oversight baselines for a newly created program to support veteran mental health during the first year after departing military service.” U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., a veteran who lost both legs during his Army service in Afghanistan, is cosponsoring the bill.

The Solid Start Program was set up by the VA to keep in touch with veterans in their first year back in civilian life. Mast’s office noted that research shows “the first year out of service is a high-risk period for mental health challenges for all veterans, regardless of demographics.”

Kelly introduced the bill on Thursday and showcased it later in the week.

“I applaud the VA for working to develop a data-backed program to support veterans during the particularly challenging first transition year. We know that a simple conversation can be effective in providing support to struggling veterans and their families,” Kelly said. “However, Congress must ensure that programs designed to address a real and growing crisis work. If not, how can we improve them? Providing for the mental health of service members, veterans and their families is everyone’s responsibility and Congress will continue to do our part through
funding and oversight.”

“For those who put on the uniform, the transition to civilian life is too often one of most difficult parts of serving their country. Proactively reaching out to veterans in their first year out of the service is a great way to make sure none of my brothers and sisters struggling with the invisible tolls of war fall through the cracks,” Mast said. “It’s my hope that this bill can make a real difference in easing this transition and help get veterans back on their feet.”

The bill would have the VA offer annual reports on the Solid Start Program’s effectiveness. Kelly’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee last week. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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