VA Comes Through for Veterans with Mental Health Conditions

President Obama’s Executive Order results in large staffing boosts at VA centers nationwide.

In a refreshing display of government efforts, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) filled its mental health professional vacancies. This move adds icing to the cake for veterans with conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder. In addition to this accomplishment VA has also increased its overall number of staff.

Although the nationwide suicide crisis remains, VA’s worthy accomplishments are an encouraging sign and are worthy of praise.

This good news is the result of President Barack Obama’s August 2012 Executive Order instructing VA to improve suicide prevention services. The President, who took this action in an effort to stem the disturbingly high suicide rate among our nation’s service members and Veterans, mandated that VA hire an additional 1,600 mental health workers nationwide to meet the sharply increasing need among existing and future veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Positive effects are being felt across the nation. Orlando’s CF13 News team reports that the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Orlando is getting 35 new mental health workers as a result of the administration’s goal. The San Antonio Business Journal notes that 24 people were hired at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System in San Antonio as a part of the President’s Initiative.

“I am proud of the hard work our staff has completed to bring these new staff members on board,” Marie Weldon, director of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System told the Business Journal. “We are committed to do everything we can to make sure Veterans will get the care they need”.

VA reports that as of May 31, 2013 the agency has hired a total of 1,607 mental health clinical providers to meet the President’s Executive Order goal. Additionally, VA says it has hired 2,005 mental health clinical providers to fill existing vacancies.

“Meeting this goal is an important achievement,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki stated; “but we recognize that we must continue to increase access to the quality mental health care that Veterans have earned and deserve”.

VA has also hired 318 new peer specialists, a number which applies toward the specific goal of 800 peer specialists on staff by December 31, 2013 as outlined in the Executive Order. VA expects to meet that goal as well.

In November 2011 VA launched a national public awareness campaign called Make the Connection, a program which is aimed at reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health care and informing Veterans, their families, friends, and members of their communities about VA resources.

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