Vermont Veterans Outreach Program in Washington Spotlight

WASHINGTON, July 23 -Lt. Col. John C. Boyd, deputy chief of staff for personnel for the Vermont Army National Guard, testified today before a Senate panel on a model Vermont veterans outreach program.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, invited Boyd, who lives in Huntington, Vt., to appear before the panel.

"In Vermont," Sanders said, "we take the approach that one of the most important ways we can take care of these veterans and their families is by going out and actually trying to contact each of them in their own homes."

Testifying before the committee, Boyd, said, "We are proud of the role Vermont took in developing an effective response to the ‘invisible wounds' suffered by our soldiers. We believe this commitment to our veterans is our obligation and an important way to ensure that they are able to remain a part of the Guard and Reserve while also living a productive and normal life."

To date, he said, 977 Vermont veterans have been contacted and had a case opened for them by an outreach specialist. "Our hope is to continue this work until every service member and their family that needs help, gets help," he said.

Nationwide, as many as 300,000 U.S. military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Another 320,000 suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Sanders secured $3 million for the Vermont program this year.

In June, the veterans' committee also passed the Veterans Health Care Authorization Act. It includes a program proposed by Sanders and Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) to build on the Vermont model by providing resources to community-based organizations and state and local governments across the country to help veterans access VA benefits and services.

To read Lt. Col. Boyd's full testimony, click here.