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U.S. Representatives Robin Kelly & Brian Mast Introduce Veteran Suicide Prevention Oversight Legislation

July 25, 2020

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL) introduced the bipartisan Solid Start Reporting Act. The legislation establishes oversight baselines for a newly created program to support veteran mental health during the first year after departing military service.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently established its Solid Start Program. The program will proactively contact veterans, by phone and email, several times during the first year of their transition to civilian life. The program is based on research indicating that the first year out of service is a high-risk period for mental health challenges. These statistics hold true for all veterans, regardless of demographics.

The legislation requires an annual report on the program's effectiveness, including the number of veterans contacted; response rates; data on referrals for benefits compensation and pensions examinations and enrollments; and usage of the Veterans Crisis Line.

"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," said Congresswoman Robin Kelly, a former mental health counselor. "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."

"With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic creating new stressors, we need to draw our focus even closer on veteran suicide prevention," said Congressman Mark Takano, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "This new bill introduced by Rep. Kelly will help us do that by taking meaningful steps to address factors that can lead to veteran suicide like promoting connectedness throughout the transition from service member to civilian. We need to ensure VA's innovative Solid Start program is working and has sufficient oversight. I'm proud to support this bipartisan bill that aligns with the Committee's efforts to examine every angle, intersection, and factor that may lead to suicide."