The Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense and Health and Human Services are working hard every day to implement the president’s Aug. 31, 2012, executive order by removing barriers, improving access and investing in research to improve the science and understanding of mental health care and treatment for Veterans, Servicemembers and their families.

As part of the efforts related to this executive order, VA has hired more than 1,600 new clinicians and over 800 peer specialists, bringing its total mental health staff to more than 20,000. VA has also increased the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line by more than 50 percent. In a related effort, DoD has hired more than 9,400 mental health professionals, launched the largest study of mental health risk and resilience ever conducted among military personnel and expanded the Military Crisis Line to Europe, Afghanistan and Korea. DoD has also added over 10,000 mental health providers in the TRICARE purchased care network and embedded mental health professionals into our military treatment facility primary care settings.

VA, DoD and HHS have jointly implemented a national suicide prevention campaign to connect Veterans and Servicemembers with evidence-based mental health and substance use treatment resources. VA has worked with community clinics to expand the number of locations where Veterans can receive mental health treatment and has hosted 152 summits across the United States in the past year to increase collaboration and coordination with resources in the community that support our nation’s Veterans.

HHS worked closely with the VA to implement community pilots to increase or supplement VA capacity in geographical areas where VA facilities are not located close by. Likewise, HHS has now brought together teams from 46 states, four territories and the District of Columbia in policy academies to develop and implement plans to ensure timely access to and quality of the behavioral health needs for military service personnel, Veterans and their families.

Our agencies have also worked closely together to begin implementation of a National Research Action Plan to inform federal research in post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other critical behavioral health issues. Through the cutting-edge research that will support this plan, we will gain answers to the crucial questions about how best to prevent and treat conditions related to mental health and traumatic brain injury.

The new Cross Agency Priority goal recently announced builds on these efforts and expands our focus in order to find new ways to further:

  • Reduce barriers to seeking care
  • Enhance access to and improve the quality of mental health care
  • Support innovative research on mental health and substance use care and treatment.

Only by working together can we continue to fulfill the president’s commitment to those who serve and support our country, and the administration will continue to ensure a spotlight remains on these important public health issues. We know that treatment works, and with effective mental health and substance use treatment, we can meet the mental health needs of Veterans, Servicemembers and their families.

petzelwoodsonbwfrDrhyde-bwfr. Robert Petzel is VA’s Undersecretary for Health; Dr. Jonathan Woodson is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs; and Pam Hyde is the administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


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Published on Mar. 18, 2014

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  1. Oscar R. Rocha March 21, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Hello All, as an OEF OIF combat vet with severe ptsd, major depression, and physical ailments, I think it is very important to constantly retrain mental health providers as to how to approach vets with mental illnesses, just because one shaves or can hold a conversation does not mean one is “doing” well, also it is not therapeutic for providers to say ” oh its not so bad, have you seen amputees?, why do cry so much are you a cry baby?, what you dont believe in what we do?, and also some providers hold you responsible for behaving erratic, andjudge you as a “that guy, he is acting up, what an arrogant little boy”. Please, please, train the mental health providers to be kind, to understand our handicapps, and help us, not judge because that will create a wall between vets, providers, and the recovery process. Thanks, peace.

  2. Ellsworth March 21, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I didn’t see community outreach as one of the priorities. We know the VA doesn’t have the staffing or funding to see the current vets and soon to be veterans right now. Also, 48 percent of veterans don’t even use VA services.

    • Yvonne Levardi March 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      You don’t see that priority there, because it’s a cross-agency goal listing.

      VA Secretary Shinseki HAS made these VA’s agency priority goals: Improve Veteran Access to VA Benefits and Services, Eliminate the Disability Claims Backlog, Eliminate Veteran Homelessness. Find our strategic plan here:

      We are definitely working to communicate with those Veterans!

  3. LINDA WM March 21, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    It’s interesting to read that the VA is adding mental health professionals such as licensed professional counselors to fulfill increased mental health needs by our service personnel and veterans but I”m not seeing this reflected in available mental health positions posted in VA career listings.

  4. W. J. MCCLAIN March 19, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    I have always believed that the VA and the military worked hand in glove. Since I was abused while I was in the military what assurance do I have that the abuse will not continue while I am being treated at the VA or for even seeking treatment at the VA? I am certainly eligible but I still believe that the military can and will retaliate against me for seeking and receiving treatment for the trauma I underwent while serving in the military.

    • lthorn March 20, 2014 at 11:07 am

      Contact a Vet Center near you. The Vet Center is a part of the VA, but separate from the VA. They serve Combat Vets with PTSD, TBI, MST. The Vet Center services are free to the Veteran for life, can assist with service connection and can not release any of your records with our a signed release of information from you.

  5. Mrs. M March 18, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Interesting read, but not seeing easier and newly improved accessibility impkemented at our assigned veterans’ facility. My servicemember has been without his mood stabilizing medications since Thursday, as his staff psychiatrist had failed to submit refill orders for the second time, the MHC front desk staff failed to deliver multiple messages requesting a refill order and a follow up phone call, AND because calling ANY extension within the mental health clinic results in four rings and being looped back to the main automated system instead of connecting us to voice mail, even during business hours. The pharmacy suggested the ER for a temporary supply. The ER called the MHC and got looped around just as we did, so they were unable to verify the meds with his assigned caregiver. We have been unable to access so much as a live human being within the MHC, let alone the care needed to maintain a medication stability it has taken over a year to achieve and will take three months to reach again, at which time it will be time to go through all this AGAIN. I pray others will benefit from the above ‘improvements’, however, we have yet to see them in action.

    • Dan F March 19, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      Call the patient advocate office and if that doesn’t work contact the Director’s office at the VAMC. Also, inform your Congressional representatives of the type of care he is receiving. That is inexcusable. Most treating psychiatrists and psychologists will give direct numbers where they can be reached. If this doctor is licensed in your state, write a letter of complaint (there is only a 50/50 chance he/she is, as the VA accepts any state license.) Thanks for caring.

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