Legislation introduced to support county veteran service officers
On December 11, Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced bipartisan legislation dedicating new federal resources to county veteran service officers (CVSOs). The bill, titled the Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach (CVSO) Act (S. 3020), would provide $250 million in federal funding over five years for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to increase the number of CVSOs across the country.
At the local level, CVSOs help veterans access a range of service-connected federal benefits, including VA health care, housing and transition assistance programs. Across the country, CVSOs in 36 states and two Native American tribes process more than $22 billion annually in claims for direct compensation and pension benefits for veterans. Though CVSOs’ primary focus is helping veterans navigate the federal benefits system, these offices are currently funded almost entirely by counties, which creates challenges for areas with high demand or counties that serve veterans in rural areas. The new personnel resources outlined under S. 3020 would enable counties to better meet the needs of local veterans. States without CVSOs would also benefit under this legislation, as it would allow the VA Secretary to partner with state, local or tribal entities to improve service delivery.
The CVSO Act has been a major legislative priority for counties and NACo has endorsed the legislation when it was introduced. Going forward, the legislation must still be considered in the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a companion bill must be introduced in the U.S. House.
For more information on the Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act and CVSOs, please see the following links:
- Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act (One-pager)
- Baldwin, Sullivan, Tester, Daines introduce bipartisan legislation to combat veteran suicide crisis (Press release)
- Montana's first county veteran service office serves as model for state (NACo County News article)
Every other week, NACo’s County Countdown reviews top federal policy advocacy items with an eye towards counties and the intergovernmental partnership.
Bruce Wilber's presidency of the County Veterans Service Officers Association of Wisconsin is significant for Native Americans, who have served in the military at higher rates than other ethnic groups since 9/11.