AMHCA is seeking increased employment of mental health counselors by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA issued long-delayed job specifications for all mental health counselor positions in September 2010; unfortunately, local VA facilities have proven highly resistant to hiring these professionals. AMHCA contends that hiring more mental health counselors would help address the VA’s severe and chronic shortage of qualified mental health staff.
In June 2013, Senator John Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation (S.1155) that directs the VA to hire more mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists by authorizing their paid employment as interns. This provision passed the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs in November as a component of a larger bill, S.1581 (Sanders, D-VT). This broader bill is known as the “Veterans Programs Improvements Act of 2013" and is expected to be considered on the Senate floor at a date to be determined. Recently, the Senate’s action spurred a House response, and last month the House companion bill was introduced as HR.3499, sponsored by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ).
Urge your House Representative to co-sponsor HR.3499, the “Rural Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act.”
AMHCA has provided a sample letter and directions for contacting Members of Congress.