The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act, moving the bill one step closer to becoming law.
U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) legislation — cosponsored by Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn (TN), Thom Tillis (NC), Steve Daines (MT), Kelly Loeffler (GA), Joni Ernst (Iowa), and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) — requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to pilot a program creating networks of support for servicemembers transitioning to civilian life.
The bill is named after Arizona Army veteran Sgt. Daniel Somers.
“Empowering veterans’ loved ones with crucial resources will help ensure veterans never feel alone during their transition to civilian life,” Ms. Sinema, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, stated in a release.
The bill allows active duty servicemembers leaving the service to designate up to 10 loved ones to receive information from the Department of Veterans Affairs on benefits and services available to veterans and their loved ones from the VA and community partners. By directly engaging families and loved ones, the VA can prepare and equip veterans’ friends and families to better understand the transition from service to civilian life, notice when veterans struggle, and ensure they have access to the necessary tools to help veterans get assistance or care.
“The fact that VA will now have to share information with our Veterans’ family members and loved ones regarding its programs and benefits will be of incalculable assistance,” stated Howard and Jean Somers, parents of Sgt. Daniel Somers. “If this policy had been available to us and our son, whereby we ourselves would have been aware of what VA has to offer, we feel that his tragic outcome might very well have been averted.”
Mr. Somers served two tours in Iraq and was diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD upon returning home. He committed suicide in 2013. After Ms. Sinema learned of Mr. Somers’ story, she worked with his parents to introduce and successfully pass the Daniel Somers Access to Care Act, which ensures veterans who worked in classified jobs can receive behavioral health services in an appropriate care setting.
Last year, Ms. Sinema introduced and passed the Sgt. Daniel Somers Network of Support Act in the annual defense authorization bill. That bill, which is now law, requires the Department of Defense to create networks of support for servicemembers entering the military.