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IMMEDIATE RELEASE






Press Release

October 20, 2006

 

No. 06-36



Contact:
Rick Weidman
301-585-4000, Ext. 127
cell: 301-996-8557

 

 

Additional Staffing Desperately Needed at VA’s Vet Centers

 



(Washington, D.C. ) – “At a time when more than one in four of our troops have acknowledged mental health issues after returning home from the fields of battle in Afghanistan and Iraq, the VA is short-changing them,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), citing a staff report released yesterday by Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) http://veterans.house.gov/democratic/officialcorr/pdf/vetcenters.pdf 

“The resources are not there in the VA Vet Centers,” Rowan said, “and the General Accountability Office has demonstrated that the Department of Veterans Affairs has diverted many millions of dollars specifically designated for hiring additional mental health staff, or they do not know where the money has gone. This lack of accountability is unacceptable.

 

“Not only is the mental health and well-being of veterans being placed at risk, the Vet Centers themselves are at risk,” Rowan said.  “Because of significantly increased work loads, some centers have introduced waiting lists. Accommodating the ever-increasing demand for readjustment counseling is taking a heavy toll on already overworked staff.

 

“VVA has repeatedly called for additional dollars and at least 250 more permanent staff for the 207 Vet Centers, which VA officials acknowledge are the crown jewels of the health care system,” Rowan said.  “Each center needs at least one new family counselor who is also certified in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and bereavement counseling. This would cost less than the cost of the war in Iraq for one half-minute.

 

“Although we applaud the VA for adding three new centers this fall and for announcing that they have hired 100 recently separated war veterans to serve in temporary positions at Vet Centers as outreach specialists and peer counselors, that is simply not enough in the face of the growing, well-documented needs of our veterans and their families.

 

“We cannot wait until the next budget cycle,” Rowan concluded. “Additional money, specifically restricted in a line-item appropriation that can be used only for the Vet Centers and for additional mental health professional staff in the VA Medical Centers, needs to be added promptly to the

FY 2007 VA appropriations when Congress returns in November. This should not be a partisan issue. When returning veterans need mental health services, they should be able to get the quality and quantity of care needed without delay or bureaucratic excuses.”

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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

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