Vet Centers: Borne of Conflict



War, despite its vicious and ugly nature, has a way of advancing both technology and medicine. The battles of World War II spurred the creation of antibiotics still used today, and out of the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear energy is used all over the planet.

The Veterans Administration, the predecessor to the Department of Veterans Affairs we know today, was unprepared for the demand of mental health services after the Vietnam War, and the only solution to the ineffective model of care was innovation. Vet Centers were created four years after the war ended to provide counseling to Vietnam Vets who struggled with reintegration. Eligibility for Vet Centers have expanded since then, serving Veterans from World War II to Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

Today, war Veterans can access individual, group and family counseling, military sexual trauma (MST) counseling, substance abuse and employment assessment, and benefits referrals. The centers are notable for their discreet locations away from big and bustling hospitals, and their staffs usually consist of war Vets themselves.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have helped to refocus attention on these critical resources. The Arizona Republic reported on the increase of Vet Centers in the state along with a noticeable difference in quality for Reed Webber, an Afghanistan Veteran. Just five years ago, he didn’t get the care he needed from his Vet Center or the closest VA medical center. Since then, mental health care budgets have expanded and new Vet Centers were built.

The need for adjustment counseling for war Vets will only increase over time. Once again, wars have both provided both demand and focus on services to improve care not just for the newest Vets, but the oldest we have.

If you need their services, find one near you and get started.

Author

Alex Horton

Comments

  1. doug brannen    

    I am so happy to hear this, I went through hell at my VA hospital

  2. Steven Gobble    

    I was enrolled in the mental health section of the VA I am currently employed at but for some reason they denied any claim I had for PTSD and dropped me like a hot potato. If you can get good help with your VA, go for it.

    1. Steve    

      Did you ever have a diagnosis of PTSD from a medical doctor? VA or private? That might have a lot to do with your denials. I was denied the first time because I only had a diagnosis of anxiety. As long as you are being honest about your reasons (“stressors”- in that they really happened and can be proven) and you actually have PTSD, you should not be having a problem. Good luck.

      1. Garry O    

        The VA doesn’t require a stressor anymore. Boots on ground is all required.

  3. Robert S.Ventrella    

    It is regretable that you have had such expieriences in the past. My treatment at the Capt.Lovell Federal Healthcare center has been nothing short of wonderful. My wife a ex Army Capt who has private insurance signed up for care at this center. The Director a Mr.Sullivan should be commended for what he has done. It is a true example of teamwork from the intake clerk to the Surgeon. If you are in the area please give it a try this oone can put many of the nations top hospitals to shame. The team that handles the C&P though not part oif the direct staff also put the vet first. The total coordination and concern displayed is beyond any expectations. If in the area please come in for a visit or better yet CARE.

  4. Ken Hunsucker    

    I hate to hear that someone has not had a good experience with either VA Healthcare or through a Vet Center. As for me, my experiences at both have been nothing but outstanding. My health care at VA has always been first class. I attend a counseling session once per month at the Vet Center and always leave with the feeling that someone actually cares. My counselor is and Iraqi vet and we have a good relationship. He understands what I as a Vietnam Vet went through and continue to go through. I salute the VA for both of these wonderful services that they provide.

  5. John Rogers    

    Very useful information. However, I could not help but notice that the second paragraph skipped right over the Korean War as it indicated which veteran’s are eligible for visiting the Vet Centers.

    PLEASE do NOT forget the Korean War and the many American men and women who fought there and kept the South Korean people free from the Communist invaders. After all, who better than a “K-Vet” as they are called would be better equipped to tell you that “Freedom is not free”.

    1. Alex Horton    

      Hey John, I meant that as a time frame, meaning World War II (1941) to Iraq and Afghanistan (still present day). The link provided lists all the conflicts and wars that provide eligibility of Vet Center services, which includes Korea.

      I would never forget about the Korean War. My grandfather received multiple Purple Hearts there, and as a fellow infantryman, I appreciate all the stories he has to share.

  6. Carola Thompson    

    What a bunch of idiots work in the Salem Hospital Finance department? You ppl.are the worst of the worst. In my eyes you are nothing but a lying, thieving, deceiving, stupid, slandering pond scum. You are all ought to be locked up and have the keys thrown away. You thieves, how dare you steal from us? I wish you all the same hell, you put us through. I hope you are going to be victims the same way you thieves victimize your innocent patients. Hell has to freeze over before I even consider dealing with scum like you thieves. WE got a bill from the V.A. in the amount of $68. Unfortunately, we overpaid this bill by $20, also $88. Even though we paid off the bill (+$20 too much) the V.A. Salem called Soc.Sec.and lied to them claiming that we still owe them this time $88 which was wrongly taken out of our Soc.Sec. check. We’ve been trying to get our stolen money back from V.A.Salem plus the $20 we overpaid. We got a phone call from V.A.Salem, where this woman promised us, that we get only $72 back. Why? This is $36 less than was wrongly stolen from us and not to mention the $20 we accidently overpaid. Why are we being penalized for $36? You ppl.in Salem screwed up by putting our money we paid on the wrong accounts. Did you do it on purpose, to have an excuse to rob your patients? I would like to know, why we aren’t paid back in full? In my opinion the V.A.Salem, Virginia are nothing but lying, thieving, deceiving POND SCUM! I want an answer

  7. Dan    

    Being a “veteran of VA Health Care” (being a patient in 5 VAMC’s and 3 Vet Centers) I can attest adequate care is dependent on the facility and the practitioner or employee. Some practitioners and employees are exceptional in their education, professionalism, courtesy and dealings with veterans. However, there are some “public contact” employees which barely speak English. (Sorry I don’t speak Swahili, Hindi, Farsi or even Spanish). Sadly, too many VA employees are there for the pay check and the “benes.” I have had VA doctors comment that unless you are looking to commit suicide, don’t stand in the exit doorways at 4PM.

    Having vented, the best advice I can give to anyone that feels they are not receiving answers or the care they are entitled to or deserve is to complain. To whom should you complain? Complain to the Patient Advocate, complain to the department head, complain to the Director’s office or to the IG. If you don’t like the person that is treating you whether it is a doctor or a nurse, request a change. Just like in the private world, you probably have a choice. Personally, I am on the third PCP in the past year and a half. However, I am now comfortable with an older, ex-private practitioner that has a lousy bedside manner, but is competent, explains things in language I understand and doesn’t just sit and types while he ask questions (like the two previous PCPs who never physically touched me…kind of hard giving a physical without touching someone.)

    As to the Vet Centers, I never heard of them until I was out for 39 years (32 years after they started). Sure wish I did, as the help I could have received may have prevented much suffering. Not only my suffering, but others as well. Today there are still too many Korean and Vietnam vets that are totally unaware there even is such a place. They suffer alone, not knowing why they feel the way they do and will most likely never understand why the war they fought never ended for them.

    Our government has never done the outreach necessary to the Korean and Vietnam vet. I don’t begrudge the OIF OEF vets the new openness of providing information before discharge, just more should be done for the older vets.

    This week if you see a veteran standing alone at a Veterans Day ceremony ask him or her if they are enrolled with the VA. You and he/she may be surprised that they aren’t aware they may be eligible for benefits and help. (I say this because if a vet belongs to the VFW, AL or other group he/she is probably aware of help).

    1. robert d. wilson    

      What about we Vietnam War veterans who have a VA center in Manila? No Champus, all my care must be service related, even though I am at 100%. Guam’s over crowded and can’t see us. I need a knee replacement, my teeth are rotting out, I need cataract surgery. I like the VA here and they treat us well. I even once had to go to the Philippine orthopedic charity ward for an operation in the filthiest of conditions. Patients there thought I was an investigative reporter. There are thousands of Veteran’s living here because they can’t afford to live in the U?S. Especially those of us with giant child support payments. There are also many Pilipino veterans who served America. Every year more and more of our benefits are taken away.

  8. Jack Kelley    

    Is this where Nam vets can sit with the new guys and be accepted all around?

    Please answer.

    1. David Ballard    

      I have been using the Vet Center since it’s conception. It has helped me through many tough times and no matter what, you are accepted and treated with dignity and respect.

  9. Jack Kelley    

    It must have had a dreamlike quality to it: a summer’s day on the Potomac, the tanks and troops on the street accompanied by officers like George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower, led by none other than General Douglas MacArthur. America’s Caesar was wearing a full salad bowl of ribbons and medals, magnificent astride a great horse; to the impoverished veterans he was riding to meet, he must have looked like a mighty warrior of a bygone era. Then, to their horror, the Chief of Staff of the US Army ordered his infantry to fix bayonets, his cavalry to draw sabers, and his tanks to move forward.

    Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight we’ll find Depression-hit Great War vets conducting an Occupation – they called such encampments “Hoovervilles” in those days – in Washington during the summer of 1932. I’m not saying it contains lessons to be learned about the interrelationships of Republican presidents, veterans, economic depression, a desire to peaceably petition a government for redress of grievances, and violent authoritarianism, but as St. Colbert once said, “I can’t help it if the facts have a liberal bias.”

    This diary was originally published on July 21, 2008 under the title History for Kossacks: Bonus Expeditionary Force. It followed another diary which described the American Expeditionary Force, and how Great War vets were promised upwards of $625 as a “bonus” for their service – but with a few catches.

    Under terms of the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 (a/k/a the “Bonus Bill”), vets would receive $1 for every day they’d served stateside to a max of $500; for overseas service, they’d get $1.25 per day, up to $625. Claims of under $50 were paid out immediately, while the other 3,662,374 veterans got certificates payable upon the maturity of the certificate – in 1945. Since this was back in the days when Congress actually paid for most of the stuff it enacted, the Adjusted Service Certificate Act set up a trust fund and earmarked 20 installment payments of $112 million each. Taken together with the interest that would accumulate along with the mounting payments, the fund was so solvent that vets were even allowed to take out loans against 22.5% of face value.

    By 1931, future prospects weren’t quite as rosy as they’d appeared back in the heady days of 1924; the vets were starting to ask for the bonus to be paid out immediately. Over President Hoover’s (R-what else?) objections, the loan guarantee was raised to 50% of face value, but as the summer of the 1932 election year…

  10. george h    

    I too am sorry about the experience you received at this salem va. I have only the best va care in many different va hospitals. I also know that the level of care one will receive will vary from va to va. I also know losing your temper with the va will just put more brick walls in a solution to the problem. Contact your local state rep, or have the vfw, american legion, or any service organization to look into your problem.
    You have to BE PATIENT. It took 20 yrs for my ptsd diagnosis from regional but I did not give up!!

    Platoon Sarge.

  11. Charles T. Cauthen    

    I’m surprised to find out the VA knows about antibiotics. They sure didn’t give me any after the infection I GOT FROM THEIR COLONOSTAMY. I don’t think they like me. Well the feeling is mutual. I gotta say, they do have a pair on ’em. It takes total stupidety to mess with a VN Combat vet, nothing good for them will come out of this.

  12. Jason G    

    I have had nothing but a FINE experience at the Baltimore Vet center. People have been great and have actually helped me. I’ve had two counselors, both just wonderful. Can’t say enough good things about this particular facility. Of course, my claim paperwork STILL isn’t complete thru the ‘regular’ Baltimore VA center (over 2 years and counting on the initial claim) but the support letter my counselor wrote no doubt was a big help in getting me 30 percent.

  13. Garry O    

    Berea, Ky VA Clinic has the worst doctor I have ever seen at the VA or otherwise. His name is John Bennett. He was an holistic pediatrician before losing his practice after being involved in the death ofa teenage girl. This guy is insane, arrogant, mean. See this website about complaints against Bennett.

    http:/www.Ratemeds.com/doctor.ratings/211785/dr-John-Bennett.LEXINGTON-KY.html

    It’s scary that the VA has doctors like this. He almost killed me.

  14. Reed Webber    

    I thank everyone for at least starting to discuss this article. The original article can be found at the following link:
    http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/ap-mental-health-centers-bring-care-closer-to-vets-110811/
    Actually, it is a reprint of the original from the AZ Republic. Anyway, I hope it gets some people looking that direction and maybe the lawmakers to have a second look at the budget and the upcoming cuts. As for all of the stupid bickering out there…just get over it! Life goes on. There are MUCH worse things in life than having to pay an un-necessary bill or having to switch Drs every now and then to find the right one, or even to have to sit with the younger, sometimes rude, “snotty” kids as we may be called at the VA waiting room.

    Engage those younger Vets…PLEASE! I beg you. You may be surprised to find out that they may know new info on the system and benefits that you do not. They will damn sure learn something from each of you! If nothing else, it will give each of the new generation of Veterans the chance to say:

    “THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE! This is meant for you! Without each of the WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Panama, Deseret Storm vets and any in the middle I missed leading the way, we certainly would not have the benefits that we have today! Thank you!”

    SGT Reed B. Webber

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