June is National PTSD Awareness month. We would like to highlight an important care option for veterans who need or may be seeking mental health counseling through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental health condition triggered by traumatic or life-threatening events. It is not uncommon for veterans or service members to struggle with PTSD because they often experience events that civilians do not encounter. This is not to say PTSD is exclusive to service members or veterans, anyone can experience PTSD.
VA offers extensive mental health resources. One important VA resource is the Vet Centers, which are community-based counseling centers that provide a wide range of social and psychological services. There are more than 300 Vet Centers throughout the country, including ones in American Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Vet Centers are located within local communities, so they are usually a more accessible alternative to seeking care at a VA medical center. VA also has a number of Mobile Vet Centers which you may have seen at a local veteran-related event. Mobile Vet Centers offer similar services to help rural veterans connect with mental health services.
In order to receive services at a Vet Center, a veteran must:
• Have served in combat;
• Provided mortuary services or engaged with casualties of war while on active duty;
• Be a military sexual trauma (MST) survivor;
• Have worked as a member of an unmanned drone team;
• Be a member of the National Guard or Reserve that was called up for an emergency; response under orders from the President or under orders from the Governor; or
• Be a Coast Guard member who participated in drug interdiction operations.
Immediate family members of combat veterans or service members are also eligible to access services through Vet Centers.
Several pieces of legislation have been introduced that would improve Vet Centers' reach. The first is the Vet Center Improvement Act (H.R. 3575/S. 1944), which would require the VA to develop a strategy for staffing and standardizing services and evaluations of counselor feedback. It would also authorize grants to address issues such as food insecurity, one of many factors that can lead to mental health concerns.
Another bill, the Supporting the Resiliency of Our Nation’s Great Veterans Act (H.R. 6411), seeks to expand eligibility for Vet Center services, increase the number of full-time employees and mental health trainees within the VA workforce, and update training for mental health staff and the Veterans Crisis Line.
Vet Centers are an ideal venue for mental health counseling for eligible veterans who have limited access to a VA medical facility. They offer excellent services to help veterans boost their mental health and adapt to other circumstances. PVA supports efforts to increase the ability of Vet Centers to assist our nation’s heroes. For more information about Vet Centers, click here.