WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), and John Boozman (R-Ark.) recently reintroduced bipartisan legislation to better connect the nation’s new veterans with services, resources, and benefits that are available in their communities to help them transition back to civilian life.

“Our veterans have served our country bravely, and as they return to civilian life, they shouldn’t have to fight to find the basic information and resources they deserve,” Senator King said. “By creating a voluntary network that connects our veterans to vital resources within their communities, like job opportunities or benefits, this bill makes information more accessible to our veterans, eases what can often be a difficult transition back to civilian life, and brings us another step closer to fulfilling our enduring promise of supporting the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our nation.”

Currently, no mechanism exists for local governments to interact directly with the 550 servicemembers who are transitioning daily nationwide or for the veterans, and their families who live there or plan to relocate there and help them get access to many needed supports. With nearly 250,000 servicemembers expected to leave military service over the next five years, the Senators’ bipartisan Connect with Veterans Act would help servicemembers as they integrate back into their communities by creating a directory of contact information to help local communities, as well as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and State Departments of Veterans Affairs, connect newly returning veterans with the services and resources they need, like employment opportunities and health care resources.

Organizations like the Association of Defense Communities have stated that the most important part of the transition from servicemember to civilian life comes during the short time period after a servicemember leaves the military. But according to a study from 2014, half of veterans polled from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan said they had a difficult time readjusting to civilian life. The Senators’ bill aims to bridge these divides by helping servicemembers quickly access the resources they need to effectively and successfully transition in their communities – especially for those living in rural communities as they often have fewer access to resources and services.

“The National Association of Counties (NACo) and the nation’s 3,069 counties support the ‘Connect with Veterans Act,’” said Sallie Clark, President of the National Association of Counties. “This bill would enable counties to more successfully reintegrate veterans, allow them to connect with their communities and provide benefits and services to facilitate the transition from military to civilian life and into the local workforce. We appreciate Senator Heitkamp’s leadership on this important issue and efforts to help counties support to our nation’s transitioning service members.”

The Senators’ bipartisan bill would create a directory of local veterans to:

-Help towns, cities, and counties in North Dakota, and across the country, interact more with new veterans moving to these communities;

-Make it easier for communities to contact veterans with useful information about local resources, such as the hours health care facilities are open, or if the community has a unique family support program; and

-Enable communities to improve their partnerships with employers that are specifically looking to hire veterans, while helping veterans find good jobs that match the skills they developed while serving.

Participation in the program is voluntary and a veteran’s contact information would only be shared with his or her permission. Veterans’ personal information will be kept safe and secure.


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