WASHINGTON — Legislation was introduced Wednesday to authorize federal funding for county veterans service officers, who help veterans and their families understand resources at their disposal, file benefit claims and represent veterans in Veterans Affairs hearings.
The Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act was introduced by U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, Mike Levin, D-Calif., Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.
Many veterans are not using their earned benefits because of lack of information or inability to complete necessary paperwork, a news release states. The legislation would strengthen county veterans service officers’ efforts to conduct outreach and provide support to underserved veterans.
“Navigating the VA’s bureaucracy can be a nightmare for those who have served, but our county’s veteran services officers are at the tip of the spear helping our veterans access the benefits they’ve earned,” Ryan said in the release. “The least we can do for the men and women who serve our country is to make sure they have the support they need when they get home.”
The legislation would authorize $50 million annually for five years for competitive grants to expand the work of county veterans service officers or comparable entities. Veterans Affairs would award grants to states to improve outreach to veterans, assist in the development and submittal of claims on behalf of veterans, hire additional county veterans service officers and train them for VA accreditation.
The bill was also introduced in the Senate by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.Click here for text of the legislation.