Sinema’s bipartisan bill named for Arizona veteran builds on previous Network of Support Act
WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act was signed into 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 and was passed through Congress as part of the Veterans COMPACT Act.
“Transitioning out of military service and into civilian life can be overwhelming and confusing for too many veterans. With our bipartisan bill now law, we are empowering veterans’ families and loved ones with critical resources, helping ensure Arizona veterans get the care and benefits they’ve earned and never feel alone,” said Sinema, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“We would like to extend our appreciation to Senator Sinema, her colleagues, and her team for their sponsorship and unwavering support of the Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act. This bill directs the VA to proactively share information regarding its programs, facilities and benefits with those closest to our veterans, and the veterans themselves. We sincerely believe that this program will be a positive step forward in the effort to reduce veteran suicides, and increase the number of veterans who utilize VA services,” said Howard and Jean Somers, the parents of Sgt. Daniel Somers.
“AMVETS commends Howard and Jean Somers for their tremendous advocacy on behalf of their son Daniel. They knew what we hope more parents of service members don’t have to find out the hard way: families and close friends are the first line of defense against veteran suicide. By making information available that explains the rigors of military service and available benefits, we close a major gap that has existed too long. Sergeant Daniel Somers will live on through the application of this law, and we were honored to be a part of finally getting it passed,” said AMVETS National.
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 Sgt. 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.