Senator’s bipartisan bill, named after Arizona veteran, builds networks of support for servicemembers
WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema today introduced the bipartisan Daniel Somers Network of Support Act, legislation named after Arizona Army veteran Sergeant Daniel Somers, that requires the Department of Defense to create networks of support for servicemembers.
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. Now, Sinema is working with the Somers to expand their network of support concept.
Currently, when servicemembers encounter challenges during active duty, or after separation from the military, their friends and family do not always have the resources needed to help. The Daniel Somers Network of Support Act, cosponsored by Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), requires the Defense Department and the Red Cross to collect from new servicemembers the names of loved ones they consider to be their networks of support. In return, the Department of Defense and Red Cross will provide information about benefits and services available to military members. By directly engaging families and loved ones, the Department can prepare and equip military friends and families to better understand military life, notice when a servicemember struggles, and ensure they have access to the necessary tools to help a servicemember get assistance or care.
“Educating our troops’ family and friends about the military experience ensures our servicemembers and veterans don’t feel isolated. I will continue working to provide our servicemembers with every resource they need and the support they deserve,” said Sinema, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“Servicemembers deserve our support at every stage of their service, and military families are their foundation during enlistments, deployment, reassignments and more. If family members and friends can learn more about the experiences and challenges of serving in the military and the tools available to them, they can better support their servicemember. My constituents, Howard and Jean Somers, have been tireless advocates for servicemembers and veterans. I’m proud to work with my friend, Senator Sinema to turn the Somers’ network of support idea into action, so less families have to endure a loss like theirs,” said Congressman Scott Peters, who is introducing companion legislation in the U.S. House.
“Since Daniel’s death six years ago, we have been working closely with Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Rep. Scott Peters to decrease the number of military and veteran suicides as well as increase family and friends’ awareness of the military experience. We feel strongly that this bill accomplishes both of those goals, by allowing those closest to our servicemembers to empathize with our warriors, and to truly understand what it is like to serve,” said Howard and Jean Somers.
Sinema is working to get the Daniel Somers Network of Support Act included in this year’s annual defense bill. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) is introducing companion legislation of the Daniel Somers Network of Support Act in the U.S. House.