July 21, 2021

Reps. Mike Levin and Colleagues Announce Reintroduction of Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Access to Veterans’ Services

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Levin (D-CA), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) reintroduced the Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act, a bipartisan bill to authorize federal funding for county veterans service officers (CVSOs) who are often the best resource to help veterans and their families understand resources at their disposal, file benefit claims, and represent veterans in VA hearings. A fact sheet on the bill is available here.

Right now, many veterans are not utilizing their earned benefits because of lack of information or ability to complete necessary paperwork. To reduce this underutilization and increase promotion of services, the bill strengthens county veterans service officers’ efforts to conduct outreach and provide support to underserved veterans, which can improve overall health and wellness.

The bill was also introduced in the Senate by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

“We have a responsibility to ensure that veterans and their families have easy access to the benefits and services that they have earned,” said Rep. Mike Levin. “That is why my colleagues and I are reintroducing this bipartisan legislation to support the work of county veterans service officers who interact directly with our local veterans every day. I’m proud to introduce the bicameral CVSO Act and look forward to advancing this legislation through the House with bipartisan support once again.”

"Our nation’s veterans have selflessly served and sacrificed to protect our country and the freedoms we hold dear. Yet some veterans, especially those in rural communities, continue to have difficulty accessing the benefits they earned," Rep. Rosendale said. "I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation with Rep. Levin to strengthen and expand the work of county veterans service officers, who serve as a valuable resource to ensure veterans and their families are able to access all of their benefits they were promised.” 

“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,” said Rep. Tim Ryan. “The least we can do for the men and women who serve our country is to make sure they have they support they need when they get home. This bill is a step in the right direction to ensure the federal government does more to support our community heroes.”

“I have had too many conversations with veterans in Eastern Washington who tell me they don’t have the resources they need to access their benefits. This is heartbreaking, and it should not be the case,” said Rodgers. “By funding additional VSOs in communities across the country – especially in rural areas – we are making a commitment to our veterans that we will not let them slip through the cracks. This common sense legislation is overdue, and it will go a long way towards ensuring those who served receive the benefits they’ve earned.” 

“County Veteran Service Officers are often the first point of contact for our veterans to access the benefits and services available to them—particularly in rural communities,” said Senator Baldwin. “It is nothing short of our duty to ensure that those who bravely serve our country can better access and utilize their VA benefits with ease. This bipartisan legislation will make federal investments to help connect veterans and their families to the resources and care they’ve earned.” 

“Less than half of Alaska’s more than 75,000 veterans are currently enrolled in the VA system, meaning a majority are not accessing the benefits and health care services that they have earned, including those struggling with mental illness. That is unacceptable,” said Senator Sullivan. “Alaska’s vast size and sparse population certainly contribute to this challenge, but local partners and veteran service officers present an opportunity to reach these off-the-grid veterans. Senator Baldwin and I are introducing legislation that will reinforce the VA’s mission to expand its reach and ensure veterans who live in rural, frontier states—like Alaska—do not get left behind.”

"As President of NASDVA (National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs), I would like to express our support for the CVSO (Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act),” said Thomas Palladino. “This proposed grant program will benefit the State Departments of Veterans Affairs and local governments in our efforts to conduct outreach and assistance to our veterans and their family members. The grant funding will directly assist with support and training of State, County, Local and Tribal governmental Service Officers.  We applaud Representative Mike Levin’s reintroduction of this important legislation.”

“The National Association of Counties applauds the bipartisan reintroduction of the Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach (CVSO) Act,” said NACo CEO Matthew Chase. “In 36 states, County Veterans Service Officers (CVSOs) play a key role in helping veterans access a range of service-connected federal benefits. However, these officers are currently funded almost entirely by counties, which creates challenges for areas with high demand or counties that serve veterans in rural areas. The CVSO Act will provide new federal resources to county governments to help us meet our growing caseloads and ensure that all of our veterans are accessing the benefits they earned through their military service. Counties stand ready to work with our federal partners to ensure this legislation is enacted.”

The CVSO Act will authorize $50 million annually for five years for competitive grants to expand the work of CVSOs or comparable entities. VA will award grants to states in order to improve outreach to veterans, assist in the development and submittal of claims on behalf of veterans, hire additional CVSOs, and train CVSOs for VA accreditation. To receive funds, a state must submit an application including a detailed plan for the use of these funds, how they will meet underserved veterans’ needs, and other information.

Click here for text of the legislation.