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VA adding family therapists and mental health counselors to workforce

The Department of Veterans Affairs has expanded its mental health services to include professionals from two additional health care fields: marriage and family therapists (MFT) and licensed professional mental health counselors (LPMHC).

“The addition of these two mental health professions is an important part of VA’s mission to expand access to mental health services,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “Veterans and their families can face unique challenges.  By providing a complete range of services, we can help them address those challenges and help keep more families together.”

The two fields will be included in the hiring of an additional 1,900 mental health staff nationwide that VA announced last week.  Recruitment and hiring will be done at the local level.  The new professionals will provide mental health diagnostic and psychosocial treatment services for Veterans and their families in coordination with existing mental health professionals at VA’s medical centers, community-based outpatient clinics, and Vet Centers.

VA has developed qualification standards for employment as LPMHCs and MFTs and has announced the appointments of mental health and health science professionals to serve on professional standards boards.  The boards will review applicants for LPMHC and MFT positions in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to determine eligibility for employment and the government grade level appropriate for the individual in the selected position.  The boards will also review promotions in these positions.

Federal benefits

Eligibility for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Active service means full-time service, other than active duty for training, as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, Environmental Science Services Administration or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or its predecessor, the Coast and Geodetic Survey. Generally, men and women veterans with similar service may be entitled to the same VA benefits.

Dishonorable and bad conduct discharges issued by general courts-martial may bar VA benefits. Veterans in prison and parolees must contact a VA regional office to determine eligibility. VA benefits will not be provided to any veteran or dependent wanted for an outstanding felony warrant.

Certain VA benefits require service during wartime. Under the law, VA recognizes these war periods:

Mexican Border Period: May 9, 1916, through April 5, 1917, for veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders or in adjacent waters.

World War I: April 6, 1917, through Nov. 11, 1918; for veterans who served in Russia, April 6, 1917, through April 1, 1920; extended through July 1, 1921, for veterans who had at least one day of service between April 6, 1917, and Nov. 11, 1918.

World War II: Dec. 7, 1941, through Dec. 31, 1946.

Korean War: June 27, 1950, through Jan. 31, 1955.

Vietnam War: Aug. 5, 1964 (Feb. 28, 1961, for veterans who served “in country” before Aug. 5, 1964), through May 7, 1975.

Gulf War: Aug. 2, 1990, through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation.

Travel funds

The American Legion Trust Fund for 2011-2012 has been expended, being used for the needs of our veterans.

Funds, when approved, could be available after July 1, 2012.

Ensure you apply for travel through the VA at VAMC Albuquerque whenever possible.

Thanks

Thanks to all the speakers, guests and attendees at the Veteran Reconnect held at the high school on April 23.

Useful links

For further information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the VSO office.

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. Third Ave. in the old Mercy Medical Center.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108. Second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

Veterans for Veterans. Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. (Buffalo Inn).

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans. Every other Monday 6 p.m., St. Patrick Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Karen, 731-0413.

Point Man Ministry (Veterans). Every Thursday at 9 a.m., (Buffalo Inn).

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