Solid Start Program for New Veterans
The first year of transition out of service is perhaps the most important in the health of a veteran. Research has shown that the frequency of suicides is much greater within the first year of separation from the service. The Solid Start program aims to positively impact these veterans in this pivotal transitional period.
With the Solid Start program, the VA is able to establish strong relationships with new veterans while promoting awareness of VA benefits, services, and other resources. The program entails personal outreach for each new veteran. Either a preliminary call or text will be made by a VA representative to the new veteran. In this call, and subsequent follow-up calls, the representatives will answer any questions the veterans may have about benefits and services.
Margarita Devlin, the VA’s Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Benefits, said “we have the opportunity to follow up every call providing resources from employment counselors, mental health resources, doctors, and other assistance.” “The goal here,” Devlin added, “is to effectively transition service members into their civilian life.”
Solid Start is not the only resource a new veteran has, however. Veterans can always contact their local veterans center to get assistance on their transition. Solid Start is attempting to augment these services and bolster the impact the VA can have on veterans in their first year out of service.
Upon a visit to one of the VA’s eight Solid Start teams to see firsthand how these interactions work, Devlin was pleased to discover that the representatives’ efforts were purposeful and effective. She watched as they clarified benefits information such as what the VA needs to make disability claim decisions. She then watched the representatives go a step further by emailing each veteran after their call with a call recap and additional resource links.
One facet of the program that Devlin wants emphasized is that transitioning service members receive free mental health resources for up to a year regardless of discharge status or service history. “Solid Start represents an important and significant shift in how VA serves veterans. If VA is calling, please take the call” Devlin says.