February 11, 2021

Senator Haskell Introduces, Testifies in Favor of Legislation to Improve Veteran Services

Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) testified in front of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee regarding legislation he introduced that would connect Connecticut veterans with the critical resources available to them. His bill would simply add two questions to public-facing forms used by state agencies, inviting veterans to identify themselves and ask for help. This would allow Connecticut’s Department of Veterans Affairs to quickly connect with local veterans and provide necessary support services.

“Veterans put their lives on the line to protect our quality of life, but too often we look the other way as they struggle with the return to civilian life,” said Sen. Haskell. “Our state has made some wonderful resources available to veterans — now we need to ensure those resources are put to good use. This bill would simply ask state agencies like the DMV or the State Police to determine if a veteran needs assistance from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. With 20 veterans a day dying from suicide nationally, we cannot wait another moment before providing a helping hand to those who served us.”

Senate Bill 385, “An Act Requiring All State Agencies To Include Certain Questions Relating To Veteran Status On State Forms,” would require state agencies to add two questions to forms: “Have you served in the military?” and “Do you need any assistance?” If the person asked responds yes, they are then referred to the state and federal agencies responsible for the wellbeing of veterans.

This legislation is intended to help veterans receive assistance that is currently available but underutilized. Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans see a 60 percent greater risk of suicide than non-veterans, and the greatest risk for suicide comes three years after a veteran leaves service, according to the federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Federal and state intervention can help prevent this daily loss of life. From 2017 to 2018, suicide rates declined 2.4 percent among veterans who accessed VA health care; other veteran groups saw those rates climb 2.5 percent.

In 2018, 47 Connecticut veterans died by suicide. With experts fearing further losses as a result of this isolating pandemic, this legislation takes on a new urgency this year.

In 2015, Michigan passed similar legislation. The state’s “reintegration” bill for veterans supplied them with lists of service organizations upon their returns home from service.