Back in April, VA announced the decision to increase its national mental health care force by approximately 1,600 mental health clinicians and nearly 300 support staff, or an increase of about 10 percent. The boost was intended to cut down on wait times so that Veterans could see a clinician as soon as possible.

Today, VA detailed an aggressive recruitment effort to get mental health professionals in the door. A team of 21 health care recruiters are on a national mission to bring in qualified physicians to facilities across the country, with an emphasis on rural and highly rural areas (places where it has been historically difficult to fully staff health care workers).

The team works to fill vacancies across the country using a variety of factors, like existing demand and diversity of services that already exist at certain facilities. Since all members of the recruiting team are Veterans, they are qualified to help identify the particular needs and demands of a given population, which helps VA use its resources more efficiently and smartly.

The Veterans Health Administration anticipates the majority of hires will come aboard within six months. The “hard-to-fill” positions, like psychiatrists in rural areas, are anticipated to be filled by the second half of fiscal year 2013.

To ensure a focused mission and proper oversight, a task force was established to help smooth out the challenges that come with national, focused hiring initiatives. The task force is accountable for reporting progress in hiring of mental health professionals in these occupations: psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, mental health technicians, marriage and family therapists and licensed professional counselors.

If you’re a mental health provider and want to serve Veterans, we’d like to hear from you. Find out more information and apply online at VA Careers. Veterans interested in pursuing mental health care can go here for their closest facility or Vet Center. For immediate help, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, or text 838255.

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Published on Jun. 11, 2012

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  1. Melissa A Vivino, Ph.D June 20, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I am a new york state licensed clinical psychologist who has worked for over 15 years in the field. My emphasis in the past 6 years has been on treating traumas on many levels that include alternative medicine, cognitive behavioral and psychodynamic approaches to mental and physical health. If anyone in the new york area wishes more info you can contact me through my website for a free phone consultation . The connection between the therapist and the patient is as important as the techniques and approaches one employs. Please keep that in mind with whomever you contact and choose to work .

  2. Jim Gilbert, PhD, LPC, LMFT June 19, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    What a joke!! I recently interviewed for a position in Region 3 as a Readjustment Counseling center therapist and was blown off by the Regional Director because they decided the position had to have a Social Worker? Really? An 80% disabled vet, retired CDR, USN, with a PhD, and dually licensed as a LPC and LMFT, was not as good as Social worker!! My years in the military on active duty provided me with numerous training in veteran issues ranging from PTSD, SAVI (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention), Combat Trauma (I was with an OHSU or Operational Health Support Unit = to a MASH unit) etc. I wonder if Louann Fellers, the Regional Director, even looked at my resume before she made the decision that they needed another Social worker…oh, by the way there were already two minority female Social Workers there and no white males, go figure!! If you want to get good people then open your eyes VA

  3. Dr. Carla Stumpf-Patton June 19, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    As a spouse to two veterans (one deceased) and a mental health professional, I have dedicated my professional career to this population and suicide prevention with veterans and postvention to the bereaved families left behind. I would love to work for the VA as a Suicide Prevention Specialist and hope they consider the large scale development of more programs and site offerings for such a position.

  4. Kevin Taylor June 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm


    Why not look at organizations like ours, HOPE4PTSDVETS.ORG and triage those in urgent need to be outsourced to us. We have 5 licensed counselors on staff experienced in various types of therapies that are successful in treating PTSD. We will even track outcomes for you. I would love to speak further with you . We are in the Texas area(Houston, San Antonio and Austin).
    Kevin Taylor
    Executive Director

  5. Carol June 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Comment to Sharon’s posting…I agree wholeheartedly with your desire for the inclusion of supplements, herbs and other homeopathic treatments for health issues. I did raise this subject with administrative staff at my local VA hospital. Unfortunately, until these alternative treatments are approved under Medicare they will not be implemented by VA. Supposedly VA will be incorporating the Planetree model of holistic health; when I asked this staff member just what the Planetree Holistic model entailed, I was told that “…they were still trying to decide what aspects of the Planetree model would be included.”

    Write to your state senators to have them introduce legislation to include supplements, herbs, and other holistic treatments in the approved Medicare treatment practices and in the VA system. This is your health care, fight for it.

    I have ambivalent feelings about VA care-some medical/mental health clinicians do care; for others its just a job; for many it seems as if veterans are a means to an end. Students or other learners practice on us for their benefit and not necessarily for ours. If you object to being a living breathing simulation ‘device’, you run the risk of being labeled as uncooperative, obstructive or red flagged as a disruptive patient (you may not even be informed that you have been red flagged, but it will show up on the screen everytime your progress notes are opened). Some clinicians will honor your request not to be used for solely educational purposes. The caveat is, if the student or learner is part of your health care team and are actively involved in your health care (they must be closely supervised), then you cannot object. I can accept that. VA medical facilities (hospitals, CBOC’s, Vet Centers, etc.) are mandated by law to be teaching facilities and to be affiliated with teaching hospitals or institutions, thus, you will be used to teach ‘future health care providers.” I don’t know about other veterans, but I don’t like being used by anyone as means to an end.

    As far as VA adding 1600 mental health care providers, be aware that you will be used to educate these individuals. I know, I was and the quality of this student’s care was abyssmal-she had no clue on how to render effective treatment and she even admitted that she was “…over her head and dragged her feet when it came to my appointments.” I was glad when she finished her practicum and I was transfered to a LCSW-she was wonderful and was a literal life saver.

    The maxim, “talk is cheap” seems to hold true in many instances…

  6. Dan F June 13, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Yep, poof the VA is going to hire 1600 more. Where do they think they are going to get them? Perhaps, they will wave their magic wand. Another, it sounds good in theory, but it will take years for it to be implemented. Yet, the VA makes it sound like this will be accomplished withing a short period of time.

    At any given time their are literally hundreds of physician and physician assistant positions open. I was going to a VA where the head of the Psychiatric Department wasn’t even a Board Certified Psychiatrist and, this is a quote from a PA, “No one wants to work here.” On top of that, the best you do is see a PA, never a psychiatrist once every four months for your medications.

    I use to see a vet center counselor, but when it got to the point that his case load only permitted me a once a month visit, I said the hell with it. Yep, go ahead find those 1600 more people….in your dreams.

    The VA is a bloated bureaucracy that is more interested in looking good, than in making any meaningful contributions. It should be disbanded and a system similar to medicare be put in place. At least we would have a choice.

  7. Sharon June 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    THat’s great. But it would be nice if you had doctors who were knowledgeable in herbs, vitamins, natural healing remedies and homeopathic methods that could tremendously help and benefit the patients. I would love to go to a health and wellness treatment center or spa to help me detox and deal with some of my health issues, since I am dealing with immune imbalances, but its like hitting a brick wall when talking about these things with VA physicians. When inquiring with them about herbs or vitamins, they respond with a deer in the headlight look. Why? Because they have no clue and all they know is traditional medicine, which I have a low tolerance for and usually have negative symptoms to alot of meds. I prefer to shop herbally which help tremendously, but don’t have the funds to do it. Please consider this. Thanks.

    Army Vet

    • H.R. June 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      I left the VA earlier this year because there was little future for me in the VA system. I am an LMFT who has supervised a veterans clinic, have training and experience in trauma and PTSD etiology and treatment, and am retired from the Army.

      The problem? My 60 hour MFT degree isn’t from a COAMFTE program, required in VA hiring criteria. This, depsite the considerable lack of COAMFTE programs across the country.

      While I understand the utility of using vetting parameters, and perhaps a degree’s program accreditation could be valid for brand new licensed providers, I suspect the utility of a degree program’s accreditation as a hiring parameter after five years of licensed practice and specific training in what you need is close to nil.

      Eventually, I’d like to return to the VA, but your current hiring parameters are prohibitive for me.

      • Jo Davis June 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm

        I to left the VA, I am a clinical social worker and worked in an outpt clinic in a rural area. I literally burned out, the case load was so high that I was crashing. When I gave my notice, my supervisor at the “mother ship” was good luck on your next adventure. I was never in the loop for the trainings, I had to find my own and pray for reimbursement. After my notice was given there was no, how can we help, what can we do to keep you etc.. I miss working with the Veterans but not dealing with the bureaucracy. They hired another social worker of the OIF/OEF outreach program, she spent most of her days reading her kindle, now she is with the justice outreach program, again she spends most of her days reading the kindle. What a waste of money and dis-service to our veterans.
        I do believe there are some VA services that are doing wonderful work, but too many are wasting the grants are are to top heavy.

        • Susan June 23, 2012 at 11:38 pm

          What city did you work in? It’s incredible to me that your workload was so high and they did not bring in more social workers to help you. I am a new MSW grad specializing in military social work and would love to be hired in any VA.

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