Introduces Citizen Soldier Outreach Support Act
(Washington, D.C.) -With a program crucial to New Hampshire National Guard members and their families at risk of being eliminated, this week U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Citizen Soldier Outreach Support Act.
"The New Hampshire National Guard has led the way in the development of a comprehensive program to ensure that our state's citizen soldiers receive the support they need and deserve," Shaheen said. "This legislation will help the New Hampshire National Guard continue to provide personalized support to soldiers and their families before and after deployment. This program has been a success and it needs continued support."
The legislation would authorize effective state-led programs, like the New Hampshire National Guard's Deployment Cycle Support Program, to apply for competitive federal funding. The Deployment Cycle Support Program provides professional care coordinators for all National Guard members and their families. During deployment, the coordinator checks in on family members on a regular basis. Additionally, the coordinator continues to check on military families at 30, 60 and 90 days after a soldier returns from deployment. The program assists returning Guard members as they transition back to civilian life. In the past, the New Hampshire delegation has funded the Deployment Cycle Support Program for New Hampshire's National Guard through congressionally directed spending, which will be unavailable for FY 2011 and 2012.
"My husband is in Kuwait and this second deployment has been a lot smoother because of the support and help of the Deployment Cycle Support Program. I often refer the family members of soldiers to the program and to get rid of it because of a lack of funding would be an absolute travesty," said Heidi Thibodeau, a participant in the Deployment Cycle Support Program and the wife of a deployed soldier. "Military families are not always good at asking for help so it's great that the care coordinators proactively touch base with families. It opens up the opportunity to vent if needed and it makes me stop and really evaluate, ‘Hey am I doing okay?'"
"Funding for this program is vitally important because it provides much needed support before, during and after a deployment for our warriors and their families who are community based and do not have access to care from military installations," said Maj. Gen. William N. Reddel III, the Adjutant General of the New Hampshire National Guard. "This year alone New Hampshire has over 750 soldiers returning from overseas and we want to make sure they get the support they need and deserve."
The Deployment Cycle Support Program was created by the New Hampshire National Guard to go beyond the services offered currently by the national Yellow Ribbon program. The Yellow Ribbon program sponsors informational events to update returning soldiers on any support services they might need-such as mental health services, counseling, marriage counseling, financial counseling, and veterans benefits.