What’s next for Vet Centers

Army National Guard veteran Mike Fisher was first connected with Vet Centers as he transitioned from the military. Now, he is the chief readjustment counseling officer for the organization that focuses on healing veterans, servicemembers and their families. 

Fisher gives a thorough overview of Vet Centers’ services, eligibility criteria, expansion and more as this week’s guest on The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast, hosted by Jeff Daly and Ashley Gutermuth.

Vet Centers, part of the Veterans Health Administration, offers services for veterans, servicemembers and Guards/Reservists who experienced certain traumas.

“If you meet one of our eligibility criteria you can come into a vet center now and for the rest of your life,” explained Fisher, who deployed to Iraq in 2005. “Our eligibility criteria are really centered to serving in dangerous places or experiencing certain types of trauma, whether that is a combat zone or area of hostility.”

Vet Centers specialize in treating the mental wounds of trauma, but also offer other services like marriage or bereavement counseling.

“Our goal is to be that one-stop shop for all of your readjustment needs,” he explained. “We do it as a spectrum of services. One side of the spectrum is, ‘Now what do I do that I am not in a combat zone? Do I stay in the military? Do I get out? Do I use my benefits?’ All the way to the other side of the spectrum, which is, ‘I’m thinking of hurting myself or somebody else.’ Or ‘I’ve experienced significant war trauma or military sexual trauma.’”

Overall, there are 300 Vet Centers across the nation and U.S. territories. Fisher says they are currently working toward expanding the number, including satellite locations and mobile stations. It’s part of an overall effort to reduce barriers to care.

“We send out staff to provide services in (outlying) communities,” he said, noting mobile centers are often dispatched. “It could be borrowing space from a local American Legion location where we have a confidential counseling space where we provide services for that community.” 

Daly and Gutermuth also discuss: 

• A new revealing study on suicide rates among servicemembers.

• The removal of a Confederate flag.

This warning to not download an authorized MyLegion app.

• The potpourri of American Legion youth programs highlighted during the annual “April is Children and Youth Month.”

Check out this week’s episode, which is among more than 170 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion’s YouTube channel.