In August 2012, President Obama issued an Executive Order to Improve Access to Mental Health Services. Obama called on the VA to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals and to ratchet up suicide prevention programs at local VA hospitals. This executive order took direct action against the staggeringly high suicide rates among veterans and the increase in cases of PTSD.
As of May 2013, the VA announced that it had met the 1,600 goal--hiring 1,607 new mental health professionals while also adding 2,005 mental health clinical providers to fill existing vacancies. Remedying the mental health issues facing veterans, however, is far from over. The 2,000+ vacancies signals a high turn over rate among mental health professionals. The VA needs to look into why this is occurring. This turnover figure also tells us that the VA will be saddled with a lot of untrained employees for the months to come. This could make their assistance in veterans benefits cases somewhat problematic. Don't be surprised if employees are unsure about how to help you get the information you need to submit a benefits case involving mental health issues. If you are having issues with your PTSD-related or other veterans benefits claim, contact us.
Additionally, this summer Obama stated that VA hospitals are required to hold mental health summits. These summits should raise awareness in local communities about the mental health services provided at VA hospitals. Focusing on mental health outreach, these summer summits will ensure that veterans and community leaders know about the VA's mental health services.
"We lose 22 veterans a day to suicide," Obama stated at the National Conference on Mental Health, "and we have to do a better job than that of preventing these all-too-often silent tragedies."
We will be following the summits closely--let's hope they can raise awareness nationwide.
Source: Patricia Kime, "VA Mental Health Summits Aim to Improve Care," 3 June 2013, Marine Times, online here.