IAVA Applauds VA Plan to Expand Mental Health Staff
Posted by Michelle McCarthy on April 19
IAVA released the following statement applauding the Department of Veterans Affairs’ plan to add 1,600 mental health clinicians – nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers—as well as nearly 300 support staff to its existing workforce of 20,590 mental health staff:
"IAVA applauds the Department of Veterans Affairs’ effort to add 1,900 more mental health professionals to its ranks so our country can better serve veterans of all generations. This announcement is a necessary, welcome step towards combating the suicide epidemic plaguing our veterans’ community and ensuring that all veterans have the mental health support they need. Nearly 37 percent of IAVA members recently surveyed know an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has committed suicide. More mental health professionals will provide a stronger lifeline of support for thousands of new veterans and their families. Still, we don’t know publicly how many mental health providers the VA actually requires to meet the surge home from Afghanistan. IAVA encourages the VA to disclose its most recent assessment of mental health needs, so even more mental health professionals and community-based organizations can step forward to offer services and support,” said IAVA Executive Director and Founder Paul Rieckhoff.
“Decreasing veterans’ wait times for mental health counseling and support is absolutely critical but it’s just one component of a larger issue. The VA is already facing a nationwide shortage of skilled mental health professionals with vacancy rates exceeding 20 percent in some areas of the country. For years, IAVA has urged the President to issue a national call to service for more mental health professionals—now is the time to take action. Our generation of veterans also needs to see VA Secretary Shinseki front and center in the community, vocally pushing back against the stigma of invisible wounds and promoting the VA’s resources. In addition, the VA needs to break the claims backlog so vets can actually get their foot in the door at their local VAs. Recent revelations about the Oakland VA underscore the need for more staffing and the urgency of an electronic records system to expedite veterans’ disability claims. Some IAVA members in California and across the country have been waiting for two years for the VA to process claims for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other injuries. They shouldn’t have to rely on a New York Times headline for their cases to get attention. IAVA remains committed to working with the White House and both the Departments of Defense and VA to continually improve the system so that no veteran is left in crisis.”
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