Veterans Services Study Recommended by Phillips and Minnesota Veterans Advocates Becomes Law
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, veterans advocates in Minnesota are praising a measure authored by Rep. Dean Phillips (MN-03). The amendment, which became law on January 1, 2021 in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), was inspired by recommendations from Phillips’s Veterans Advisory Council and builds on Minnesota’s best practices to ensure veterans receive high-quality assistance regardless of zip code.
In conversations with members of his Veterans Advisory Council, Phillips heard about the challenges Minnesota veterans advocates face in making sure new veterans are aware of the benefits and services available to them during demobilization (the period when a servicemember transitions out of active duty and adjusts to life back home). Phillips learned that Minnesota is known for its excellent demobilization program, which uses local advocates called County Veterans Service Officers (CVSOs) who assist veterans and their families as they navigate the benefits and services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), their state, as well as local and nonprofit organizations. Phillips’s amendment requires the Department of Defense, in coordination with the VA, to conduct a report on the effectiveness of CVSOs at demobilization centers and feasibility of implementing this locally led program on a larger scale.
“As a Gold Star Son, my gratitude to those who serve our country in the military, and their families, is immeasurable,” said Phillips. “Representation begins with listening, which is why I worked closely with my constituents and learned from Minnesotan veterans and service organizations about how we can improve our processes. Against the backdrop of a global health crisis, we must continue to fulfill our constitutional obligation to ‘provide for the common defense [and] promote the general Welfare.’ This is the type of patriotism and collaboration Americans expect from their elected leaders.”
Dan Tengwall, a CVSO in Carver County and member of Phillips’s Veterans Advisory Council, stressed the importance of having local advocates at demobilization sites around the country to help make sure veterans don’t slip through the cracks. Navigating bureaucratic red tape can be difficult for anyone, but especially for returning troops. Having an advocate helps soldiers better understand and make use of their hard-earned benefits.
“I have been very impressed during the first two years of working with Congressman Phillips. He is engaged and a natural listener,” said Carver County CVSO Dan Tengwall. “When we send local veteran advocates to the demobilization location, we’re sitting one-on-one with these service members. Some of them are our neighbors - the people we see in the supermarket and at church. We’re able to meet them and speak their language. The payoff is matching them with benefits and services they can use from day one when they return home. Being in the same place as them before they go off of active duty, it’s invaluable. If we don’t capitalize on this important step, people are missed and they fall through the cracks. That’s not good for anyone. CVSOs in the State of MN been helping our National Guard units at DEMOBs for 15 years. The process makes sense, we already do it, and it works.”
Phillips voted for final passage of the NDAA in the House on December 8, 2020 and to override the President’s veto on December 28, 2020. The defense bill includes eight amendments offered by Phillips aimed at modernizing our national security, stabilizing international relationships, preparing for the next global crisis, and supporting our veterans and their families.