VA vows to speedily hire hundreds of mental health staffers

The Department of Veterans Affairs, sharply criticized in recent weeks for delays in getting help for veterans with mental health problems, promises an aggressive timetable to hire hundreds of psychologists, counselors and social workers this year.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in April he aims to hire 1,600 more mental-health clinicians.

On Monday, VA officials said they hope to fill most of the positions within six months, except for hard-to-fill jobs such as psychiatry, which they hope to fill by spring 2013.

The VA, responding to a crush of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans needing services for post-traumatic stress, depression and traumatic brain injuries, has increased its mental-health staffing by 41 percent since 2007 to more than 20,000 employees nationwide, the Star-Telegram reports. But the VA still has 1,500 vacancies, including many psychiatrists.

Read more about the VA’s struggles with staffing in the Star-Telegram.

In its press release, the Department of Veterans Affairs describes its “aggressive national mental health hiring initiative.”

It will include “targeted recruitment of mental health providers willing to take positions throughout the country, including in rural and highly rural markets,” the VA said in another release.

Montana’s VA expects to hire five new clinicians, the Billings Gazette reports.

In Texas, the VA plans to hire 24 mental health personnel in the Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley.

The Eastern Colorado Health Care System is hiring more than 40 mental health professionals,  including 5.5 that are new positions.

Nationally, the VA has 20,590 mental health staff that includes nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.

In this May 7 video, Sonja V. Batten with the VA’s Office of Mental Health Services talks about the effort to boost staffing and how to find help.

Immediate help is available at or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (push 1) or texting 838255.



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