The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Commander Gary L. Fry Commends Department of Veterans Affairs For Increase In Health Care Professionals

va seal1 150x150 Commander Gary L. Fry Commends Department Of Veteran Affairs For Increase In Health Care Professionals 

VA Sec­re­tary Eric K. Shin­seki announces hir­ing of 1,600 new men­tal health care professionals

LANHAM, Md., April 23, 2012—AMVETS National Com­man­der Gary L. Fry expressed his sup­port today for the deci­sion to increase men­tal health staffing at the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs by 1,600 pro­fes­sion­als. VA Sec­re­tary Eric K. Shin­seki announced on Thurs­day, April 19, the addi­tion of 1,600 men­tal health work­ers, includ­ing psy­chol­o­gists, psy­chi­a­trists, nurses, social work­ers and pro­fes­sional coun­selors, as well as 300 sup­port staff, increas­ing the men­tal health staff by nearly 10 per­cent. Hop­ing to reduce wait times and serve an increas­ing num­ber of return­ing war vet­er­ans, this increase in pro­fes­sion­als will sup­ple­ment the exist­ing work­force of 20,590 men­tal health staff. “As the tide of war recedes, we have the oppor­tu­nity, and the respon­si­bil­ity, to antic­i­pate the needs of return­ing vet­er­ans” Shin­seki said in a statement.

AMVETS rec­og­nizes that the VA faces sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges ensur­ing that newly return­ing war vet­er­ans have access to post-deployment read­just­ment ser­vices and spe­cial­ized treat­ments while guar­an­tee­ing that all other enrolled vet­er­ans gain and keep access to effec­tive, timely, high-quality men­tal health ser­vices. This new hire ini­tia­tive fol­lows a VA review that deter­mined short­ages in the men­tal health staff resulted in longer wait times for vet­er­ans to receive treat­ment. Begin­ning imme­di­ately, VA hopes the new per­son­nel will help to meet the needs of an increas­ing num­ber of vet­er­ans who are seek­ing men­tal health care.

I applaud Sec­re­tary Shinseki’s action to address the crit­i­cal issue of vet­er­ans’ men­tal health care by adding the skilled and trained pro­fes­sion­als we need in this area,” said Fry. “AMVETS will con­tinue to work with our part­ners at VA, in Con­gress, and the Obama Admin­is­tra­tion, to ensure VA has the resources nec­es­sary to meet the needs of our Amer­i­can veterans.”

Since 2007, VA has expe­ri­enced a 35 per­cent increase in the num­ber of vet­er­ans who receive men­tal health ser­vices. Untreated and unhealed phys­i­cal and men­tal health com­bat injuries play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the num­ber of mil­i­tary and vet­eran sui­cides. VA reports that 18 vet­er­ans take their own lives each day, total­ing 6,750 vet­er­ans’ sui­cides per year. In a Fall 2011 sur­vey, 40 per­cent of the sur­veyed men­tal health providers gave a wait-time of 14 days for appoint­ments. Result­ing from staff defi­cien­cies, this wait-time proves crit­i­cal as vet­er­ans face life-threatening issues and are left with­out avail­able pro­fes­sion­als to pro­vide sup­port and treatment.

Chair­man of the Sen­ate Vet­er­ans’ Affairs Com­mit­tee U.S. Sen­a­tor Patty Mur­ray will hold a hear­ing on Wednes­day, April 25 to dis­cuss the defi­cien­cies in vet­er­ans’ men­tal health care and to hear the Inspec­tor General’s find­ings on the sub­ject. “Too often we have seen staff vacan­cies, sched­ul­ing delays, and red tape leave those vet­er­ans who have been brave enough to seek help in the first place left with nowhere to turn,” states Mur­ray in a state­ment. The VA has taken the first steps in solv­ing the prob­lems involved in vet­er­ans’ men­tal health care and AMVETS actively sup­ports these ini­tia­tives in aid­ing our nation’s veterans.

About AMVETS:    
A leader since 1944 in pre­serv­ing the free­doms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS pro­vides sup­port for vet­er­ans and the active mil­i­tary in procur­ing their earned enti­tle­ments, as well as com­mu­nity ser­vice and leg­isla­tive reform that enhances the qual­ity of life for this nation’s cit­i­zens and vet­er­ans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered vet­er­ans’ ser­vice orga­ni­za­tions in the United States, and includes mem­bers from each branch of the mil­i­tary, includ­ing the National Guard and Reserves. To learn more visit

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