Newly separated veterans can now expect a series of phone calls from the Department of Veterans Affairs, thanks to a new DAV-supported law that will ensure the agency reaches out to connect transitioning service members with various tools and resources.
Signed by President Biden in October, the Solid Start Act of 2022 (Public Law 117–205) permanently authorizes and expands the VA Solid Start (VASS) program. It was launched as a pilot program in December 2019 to increase veterans’ awareness of available VA benefits and services, lower the entry barriers into VA mental health care treatment and support veterans’ successful transition to civilian life.
“The first year after separation can pose numerous challenges that make it difficult for veterans to adjust to civilian life,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Randy Reese. “This new law will ensure the VA and Pentagon coordinate their efforts so our transitioning heroes get the health care and benefits they’ve earned at a critical time in their lives.”
Specifically, the bill requires the VA to coordinate with the Department of Defense to call veterans three times per year (zero to 90, 91 to 180, and 181 to 365 days after release from active duty), provide women veterans with information tailored to their health care and benefit needs, and prioritize outreach to veterans who have accessed mental health resources before separation.
The VASS program is already prioritizing calls to those who had a mental health care appointment within the last year of their service, helping lower the barrier to accessing VA mental health services and treatment. The department says it successfully connected with nearly 25,000 such veterans in fiscal year 2021, representing a 75% connection rate. The program connected with nearly 150,000 veterans in all.
“Every veteran deserves to be made aware of the benefits they’ve earned regardless of their service record or character of discharge,” said Reese. “We’re happy to see a VA program that reaches out to such individuals is now permanent under this new law.”
VA Solid Start conversations are not scripted and are instead driven by the specific needs of the veteran at the time of the call, according to the VA. Program representatives ask open-ended questions to identify issues or challenges veterans may be experiencing at the time of the call and then direct them to the appropriate resources, benefits and services to best meet their needs.
“Only time will tell if this program can remain effective in connecting newly separated veterans with the benefits they’ve earned,” said Reese. “In the meantime, we’re glad to see Congress and the White House working together so veterans don’t fall through the cracks.”
Find updates to other major veteran legislation by joining DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network) at DAVCAN.org.