Senator’s bipartisan bill, named for Arizona veteran, builds on previous Network of Support Act
WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema introduced the bipartisan Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act—legislation requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to create networks of support for servicemembers transitioning to civilian life. The bill is named after Arizona Army veteran Sergeant Daniel Somers.
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. Earlier this year, Sinema introduced and secured the Sgt. Daniel Somers Network of Support Act in this year’s annual defense authorization bill. That legislation requires the Department of Defense to create networks of support for servicemembers. Now, Sinema is working with the Somers to expand their network of support concept.
The Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act, cosponsored by Republican Senators Thom Tillis (NC), Marsha Blackburn (TN), and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) will allow 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. Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA) introduced the Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act in the U.S. House.
“Troops leaving military service face confusing and complicated red tape when navigating their veterans benefits. Educating and empowering our veterans’ loved ones about the resources available will ensure veterans never feel alone and get the support and benefits they’ve earned,” said Sinema, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“During the period between Daniel’s military service and his death by suicide in 2013, neither he nor we had knowledge of the many resources and programs available through the VA. Since 2013 we have been working closely with Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Rep. Scott Peters, and many others, to remedy this issue and alleviate the confusion connected with the VA’s eligibility, access to care, and benefits. We feel strongly that this bill addresses these issues by proactively educating our veterans and those who love them, thus improving their overall knowledge and understanding of the VA. Our goal is to ensure that every eligible veteran takes advantage of the VA’s services and expertise to the fullest extent possible,” said Howard and Jean Somers, parents of Sgt. Daniel Somers.
“Veterans’ families and friends provide invaluable support when servicemembers transition out of the military. When they have more access to information about how to navigate the VA and other resources, they will be able to better support their loved one. This bill aims to strengthen the bonds between veterans and their families and potentially prevent isolation and suicide after they leave the armed forces,” said Rep. Peters.
“The transition from military to civilian life can be daunting. By creating a network to support each veteran, we can confront the tragically high veteran suicide rate that occurs within the first year of departure,” said Senator Blackburn. “Our servicemembers fully dedicate themselves to preserving freedom and protecting the United States. We ought to honor their service by giving them every resource necessary to succeed as they take their next steps.”