The U.S. Senate passed legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Maggie Hassan that creates one week per year as "Buddy Check Week" to help veterans with the sometimes difficult transition to civilian life.

The bill takes a program created by the American Legion that connects veterans with other veterans. The Veterans Administration would work directly with nonprofits that serve veterans, mental health experts, and members of the Armed Forces to provide educational opportunities for veterans to learn how to conduct wellness checks.

The bill would also make sure the Veterans Crisis Line is prepared for an increase in calls

“Veterans can face immense mental health challenges when they transition to civilian life and beyond, and New Hampshire veterans have shared with me how peer support systems can save lives and provide essential support,” Hassan said in a statement.

The bill moves onto the House for a vote.

Maggie Hassan (Courtesy)
Maggie Hassan (Courtesy)
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An Important First Step. But More Needs to Be Done

Dover's Matt Mayberry, an Air Force veteran who organized the Flags Across NH in September to show support members of the U.S. military who served in Afghanistan is please with the measure but sees it as a first step in helping veterans.

"I think what Sen. Hassan and Sen. Joni Ernst have done is an incredibly valuable first step. But it's the first step in a long journey that we need to take to reduce the number of suicides amongst veterans," Mayberry told Seacoast Current."

The unanimous and bipartisan vote should send the message to veterans that it's okay to ask for help and for families to watch for the signs that assistance is needed so Buddy Check Week becomes a daily thing.

"Don't just brush it off. Step into the breach. If you love and care for a veteran and you know they're struggling step into that space and say 'tell me more. What is going on," Mayberry said. "Or if you're like most military people 'what the F is going on?' Ask the questions."

"Nine words to me are important to me in the English language," Mayberry said. "The first three are 'I love you.' The second are 'I need help' and the third is 'tell more.'"

Mayberry said he didn't see where there's more physical boots on the ground to offer more therapy for veterans and their families and is concerned that the financial appropriation isn't there.

"It's not being critical of them. But what does success look like under this program," Mayberry said.

Mayberry said he would like to see support for another Hassan's bill that strengthens the VA's Solid Start program requiring contact with every veterans three times by phone in the first year after they leave active duty.

"That's your boots on the ground. The meat to go with the mashed potatoes," Mayberry said.

Mayberry would like to see first responders included in the program because their numbers are rising just as much as those of veterans.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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