Sinema’s bipartisan bill named for Arizona veteran, builds on previous Network of Support Act that is now law
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act, moving the bill one step closer to becoming law. Sinema’s 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 Sergeant Daniel Somers.
“Empowering veterans’ loved ones with crucial resources will help ensure veterans never feel alone during their transition to civilian life. Passage of our bipartisan bill moves us one step closer to getting all Arizona veterans the care and benefits they’ve earned,” said Sinema, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“We cannot thank Senator Sinema and her staff enough for sponsoring the Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support bill. 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. 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. This bill is a necessary companion piece to the already enacted Sgt. Daniel Somers DoD Network of Support legislation,” said Howard and Jean Somers, parents of Sgt. Daniel Somers.
“The brave men and women who served our country were faced with challenging situations that many are still coping with and we must make sure they have the resources they need to get the appropriate care,” said Tillis. “One aspect of achieving that goal is ensuring they have a support system of family and loved ones to help them in times of need, and I am proud we could unanimously pass this bipartisan legislation in the Senate that will require the VA to create that network of support so families are engaged and aware of the resources available to veterans.”
The Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act allows active duty servicemembers leaving the service to designate up to 10 loved ones to receive information from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 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.
Sgt. Somers served two tours in Iraq and was diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD upon returning home. He lost his life to suicide in 2013. After Sinema learned of Sgt. Somers’ story, she worked with his parents, Howard and Jean Somers, 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, 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. Now, Sinema is working with the Somers to expand their network of support concept to ensure that support continues as the individual transitions out of the military.