Salazar, Wenstrup, Balderson cosponsor bipartisan bill to support at-risk veterans

U.S. Reps. María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), and Troy Balderson (R-OH) joined a bipartisan contingent of more than a dozen lawmakers to unveil legislation that would authorize federal grants to create and operate veterans response teams within law enforcement agencies. 

The Supporting Every at-Risk Veteran In Critical Emergencies (SERVICE) Act, H.R. 8140, is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Dale Strong (R-AL), and the bill has 16 original cosponsors, including Rep. Salazar, Rep. Wenstrup, Rep. Balderson, and U.S. Reps. David Valadao (R-CA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), and Lou Correa (D-CA).

Specifically, H.R. 8140 would create a pilot program through the U.S. Department of Justice to provide grants to law enforcement agencies to create local veteran response teams. The teams would be comprised of military veteran law enforcement officers who would respond to other veterans in crisis or emergency, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“Research shows that when a veteran is in crisis, they are most receptive to help and support provided by fellow veterans,” said Rep. Salazar. “Nearly 20 percent of our U.S. law enforcement has served in the military, and they are undoubtedly the most well-equipped to respond to other veterans in need.”

Grants could be used to train and educate law enforcement officers on mental health issues related to military service; outfit law enforcement officers with insignia that indicate their branch of service; provide overtime pay for law enforcement officers who participate in a veterans response team; and grow awareness of the program within their communities and promote VA resources, the summary says.

“We have a responsibility to care for the people who have served our country and their mental health before they reach a breaking point,” Rep. Wenstrup said. “I look forward to seeing the House pass this legislation so the pilot program can help service members across the nation.” 

Rep. Balderson pointed out that the nation’s commitment to its military veterans has no end date.

“Our law enforcement, many of whom are veterans themselves, are often the first point of contact when a veteran is facing a crisis,” said Rep. Balderson. “This funding helps ensure adequate training on how to handle these difficult situations and ultimately connects veterans with available resources to help them overcome their unique challenges.”

H.R. 8140 has been endorsed by the American Legion, Hope for the Warriors, and Vietnam Veterans of America.