Congressman Jake Ellzey filed the VITAL Assessment Act Oct. 8. Each year, thousands of veterans go to school using the GI Bill and other educational benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. In recent years it has been shown that student veterans often have trouble adapting to their lives as civilians and as students. The Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership program was introduced to provide mental health services to student veterans on college campuses to combat this issue and provide a solution. Since its introduction in 2011, the VITAL program has grown to 183 locations nationwide and has helped countless veterans adapt to their new environment.
The VITAL Assessment Act, helps further this cause by requiring the VA to report to Congress about VITAL’s management, operations, and effectiveness in supporting student veterans’ mental health and educational goals, connecting student veterans with needed care and services, and preventing student veteran suicide. It also requires the VA to use the information gathered to create new best practices, goals, and performance measures for the VITAL program.
“Since the first day I took the oath of office, I have put veterans as a top priority of my legislative agenda. It is only fitting that we as Americans take care of those who have taken care of us. 22 veterans die from suicide every day, and this is unacceptable,” Ellzey said. “We have a duty as a country to do all that we can to help our veterans acclimate to their new lives as civilians and prevent these deaths from occurring. The VITAL program is an essential program that has proven to save the lives of our veterans, and the VITAL Assessment Act will give us the additional tools and resources needed to improve this program.”
“The Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership program is uniquely positioned to provide mental healthcare and support services to student veterans by coordinating and collaborating with local VA medical centers, campus faculty, and community resources, but it lacks adequate support to perform its mission,” said Justin Monk, Student Veterans of America’s Policy Associate. “SVA supports this bill as the first step to improve the program to better serve student veterans as they integrate into their campus communities by providing the resources needed to examine the program’s engagement, barriers to service, and outcomes.”