The Vet Center Eligibility Expansion Act will broaden the pool of servicemembers who will be eligible to take advantage of the available counseling resources. After it becomes effective Jan. 1, 2022, eligibility expands to reserve components of the armed forces who were activated in response to a national emergency or disaster declared by the president as well as National Guard troops under state orders in response to civil disorder or a disaster.
Additionally, Coast Guard members will also be eligible if they have participated in drug interdiction operations, regardless of the location.
These community-based counseling centers provide a range of social and mental health services, including professional readjustment counseling to eligible veterans, active duty servicemembers, including National Guard and Reserve components, as well as their families. These services help provide a servicemember with the tools to make a successful transition from military to civilian life or after a traumatic event experienced in the military, including combat-related trauma and military sexual trauma.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is in the process of assessing the impact and determining resources required for implementation.
“Our Vet Center teams often deploy to emergency or crisis situations to help fulfill VA’s Fourth Mission of caring for our communities, providing necessary counseling and connection to other community resources they may need at the time,” said VA Acting Under Secretary for Health Dr. Richard Stone. “Staff are prepared to discuss and identify solutions to addressing stress, fatigue, grief, trauma and other thoughts or feelings individuals may experience. We are a part of the communities we serve and want to be a part of the solution.”
In fiscal year 2020, the mobile Vet Centers were deployed 20 times. Eleven of those supported COVID-19 outreach and support, six were emergency management responses, and three provided additional support at VA Medical Centers. These mobile deployments helped serve nearly 1,000 veterans, 100 servicemembers, 272 family members and 3,662 civilians.
One of the most notable events was the deployment of two mobile Vet Centers to the Capitol following the Jan. 6 uprising. The centers provided free mental health resources and counseling to the U.S. Capitol Police, members of the National Guard and congressional staff members in crisis.
To find a Vet Center visit https://www.va.gov/find-locations or call the Vet Center Call Center at 877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).