Outreach by veterans service offices expanded under McMorris Rodgers bill

Bipartisan legislation introduced on Feb. 10 by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) would authorize competitive federal grants to expand the work of county veterans service officers (CVSOs) or comparable entities.

“Veteran service officers are often the only lifeline connecting veterans and their families with the benefits they earned in service to our country,” Rep. McMorris Rodgers said. “This is especially true in rural communities where a shortage of VSOs is resulting in too many veterans slipping through the cracks.” 

Rep. McMorris Rodgers signed on as the lead original cosponsor of the Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach (CVSO) Act, H.R. 984, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) to strengthen CVSOs’ efforts to conduct outreach and provide support to underserved veterans, according to a fact sheet provided by the lawmakers.

“No one who has put on the uniform should ever feel” they aren’t being supported, said Rep. McMorris Rodgers. “While our bipartisan bill won’t fix everything, the long overdue investment it makes is a critical first step towards ensuring no veteran ever gets left behind again.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), many veterans do not utilize their benefits because they are unaware or unable to do so. For instance, out of 19 million U.S. veterans, roughly 9.6 million are enrolled in VA health care, 5.3 million receive disability compensation, and 3.6 million are active VA home loan participants — with other VA programs showing similar rates of underutilization, the VA says.

Specifically, H.R. 984 would authorize the VA to award grants to states to improve outreach to veterans; enhance the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of veterans’ benefits claims; hire additional CVSOs; and train CVSOs for VA accreditation, according to the fact sheet. 

To receive funds, a state would have to submit an application, including a detailed plan for the use of grant funds and how they would meet underserved veterans’ needs, among other information.

“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. Levin. “I’m proud to spearhead the CVSO Act and I look forward to advancing this legislation with bipartisan support.”

H.R. 984 is companion legislation to S. 106, introduced on Jan. 26 by U.S. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in their chamber.