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House committee passes critical legislation supporting County Veteran Service Officers

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Rachel Mackey

Legislative Director – Human Services & Education | Veterans & Military Services

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County Countdown – Nov. 20, 2023

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Key Takeaways

On September 21, the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) unanimously approved an updated version of the bipartisan Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach (CVSO) Act (H.R. 4601/S. 2405). Counties support this legislation, which would meaningfully increase the ability of state, county, municipal and tribal veteran service officers to support veterans as they navigate the cumbersome bureaucracy of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits process.

At the local level, County Veteran Service Officers (CVSOs) help veterans access a range of service-connected federal benefits, including VA health care, housing and transition assistance programs. CVSOs are often the first point of contact in the community for veteran’s services. Across the country, CVSOs in 29 states and two Native American tribes CVSOs are responsible for helping veterans obtain more than $50 billion annually in federal health, disability, pension and compensation benefits. 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 CVSO Act will provide critical federal resources to help us meet our growing caseloads by awarding competitive grants worth $250 million over five years for states to create, expand, or support CVSOs or similar government entities, such as state, municipal and tribal VSOs. This is especially important following the recent bipartisan enactment of the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act (PL 117-168), which creates 23 new presumptive service conditions for toxic-exposed veterans and expands VA healthcare eligibility for millions of post-9/11 veterans. CVSOs and our counterparts at other levels of government are on the front lines assisting veterans in navigating the benefits for which they are newly eligible, but without support from our federal partners, many counties will lack the resources necessary to hire and train additional CVSOs to help meet the expected rise in caseloads.

NACo joined the National Association of County Veteran Service Officers (NACVSO), which represents a workforce of over 2,400 CVSOs, to send a letter of support for H.R. 4601 to HVAC committee leadership ahead of the committee markup. Counties applaud the Committee for unanimously approving this legislation and urge House leadership to swiftly bring it to the floor for consideration. We will continue to monitor activity on critical this legislation in the House and Senate.

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