VA to Increase Mental Health Staff by Nearly 10 Percent

In an effort to decrease wait times for Veterans in need of mental health care, VA will soon increase its mental health staff by 1,900. This will represent nearly a 10 percent increase in mental health staff across the Department.

As you read the full announcement below, one thing to note is that this increase is not necessarily final. VA will continue to evaluate the needs of our Veterans on an ongoing basis and the Department will add staff as needed.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki today announced that the department would add approximately 1,600 mental health clinicians – to include nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers as well as nearly 300 support staff to its existing workforce of 20,590 mental health staff as part of an ongoing review of mental health operations.

“As the tide of war recedes, we have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to anticipate the needs of returning Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended. As more Veterans return home, we must ensure that all Veterans have access to quality mental health care.”

VA’s ongoing comprehensive review of mental health operations has indicated that some VA facilities require more mental health staff to serve the growing needs of Veterans. VA is moving quickly to address this top priority. Based on this model for team delivery of outpatient mental health services, plus growth needs for the Veterans Crisis Line and anticipated increase in Compensation and Pension/Integrated Disability Evaluation System exams, VA projected the additional need for 1,900 clinical and clerical mental health staff at this time. As these increases are implemented, VA will continue to assess staffing levels.

“Mental health services must be closely aligned with Veterans’ needs and fully integrated with health care facility operations,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel. “Improving access to mental health services will help support the current and future Veterans who depend on VA for these vital services.”

VA will allocate funds from the current budget to all 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) across the country this month to begin recruitment immediately. Under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Shinseki, VA has devoted more people, programs, and resources toward mental health services to serve the growing number of Veterans seeking mental health care from VA. Last year, VA provided specialty mental health services to 1.3 million Veterans. Since 2009, VA has increased the mental health care budget by 39 percent. Since 2007, VA has seen a 35 percent increase in the number of Veterans receiving mental health services, and a 41 percent increase in mental health staff.

VA has enhanced services by integrating mental health care into the primary care setting, developed an extensive suicide prevention program, and increased the number of Veterans Readjustment Counseling Centers (Vet Centers). VA’s Veteran Crisis Line has received more than 600,000 calls resulting in over 21,000 rescues of Veterans in immediate crisis.

“The mental health of America’s Veterans not only touches those of us at VA and the Department of Defense, but also families, friends, co-workers, and people in our communities,” said Petzel. “We ask that you urge Veterans in your communities to reach out and connect with VA services.”

To locate the nearest VA facility or Vet Center for enrollment and to get scheduled for care, Veterans can visit VA’s website. Immediate help is available at or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (push 1) or texting 838255.


Brandon Friedman


  1. jim mcclain    

    my wife applied several times in past 2yrs and called yesterday and was told there were no positions open in our area of tampa st pete, ft myers, or pensacola. only urban areas/inner city hires. she is a licensed clinician in substance abuse, social work, etc. with a masters and was told also that she was overqualified.

  2. Terry Bowman    

    The Marion VAMC (Illinois) recently opened an, RTTP, another CBOC, and has plans for yet another CBOC. Before these new facilities were added the Behavioral Medicine staff was not sufficient to serve Veterans’ needs. Adding facilities only spread the clinicians out thinner and made the situation worse. A staff member in a Behavioral Health leadership position has made concerted efforts to rid Behavioral Medicine of existing Veteran patients. According to him, “PTSD is curable” and those who have had the advantage of therapy “should be cured and, if not, either their therapist did not do a proper job or the Veteran is sicker than thought and might should be institutionalized”. Kicking Veterans out the door is not a solution to VA’s staffing ills. I’ll believe VA’s increase in mental health staff if and when it happens and if and when Veterans begin receiving the therapy they need.

  3. Paul P. Valtos    

    You need to increase trhe psychologist slots, not the psychiatrist slots.
    All the Psychiatrists do is prescribe pills and do little talk therapy.
    talk therapy is what is needed and the pills take care of themselves.

  4. Joe Curmi    

    SW and live in Las Vegas, Nevada
    evada and I would like to work in the North Clinic.

  5. Gary B    

    I teach social work in an accredited undergraduate university program. In my current class of 21 juniors, three are OEF/OIF veterans and three are married to OEF/OIF veterans or active duty personnel. Two of the veterans specifically want to work with and serve fellow veterans as professional social workers. One of the spouses would like to work with veteran families. In the next year, each of these fine and responsible individuals will have to complete a 450 hour, supervised internship. Somewhere. But not likely in the VA. You see, the Veterans ADMINISTRATION generally refuses to even consider allowing BSW level students to train in the VA system. Regardless of their experience!

    I am repeatedly advised “we only take masters level clinical social work students.” As if there are no veterans or families who might benefit from advocates who know the system, service managers who might help navigate the complicated system, or well trained professional peer helpers who have actually “been there and done that.”

    Not every veteran with difficulties needs a clinician / therapist. It actually occurs to me that access to strong and competent generalist practitioners who understand the “person in the environment” issues related to the military experience, how the VA ( and larger civilian) system works, is aware of family strengths as well as challenges, and has a basic but clear understanding of mental health issues, just might actually be an effective and valuable part of the team.

    Whats the cost benefit of preventive care compared to restoritive therapy?

    It’s an interesting paradox that the VA will pay for a college education, and it will say it wants to help veterans find employment, and that it wants to increase mental health services to veterans in their system, yet it refuses to consider individuals for professional internships that might contribute to solutions in all those areas. Go figure. ( My own father,a Navy Corpsman who served in the Pacific and who died in a VA hospital 20 years after the war, would have referred to this as SNAFU.)

    I’d love to hear what anyone else might offer here in the way of guidance for me to better serve these wonderful young men and women.

    1. KO26    


      I have managed clinicians in multiple programs across the Service Branches who provide counseling services on installations and in communities to Service Members and thier families for over ten years now. I would like to offer that putting a Bachelors prepared student in front of a returning Veteran in this capacity would be a mistake. The reason that a license is required is so that the professional…. not para professional can evaluate the individual. To “under serve” these men and women is as much of a disservice as to not serve them at all….. I know you mean well, but I do not believe this is a population that we can take such risk. I have also managed para professional programs and I understand where these individuals can make invaluable contributions. Just not in clinical settings providing any Case Management or Mental Health Intervention in mental health environments. Send them to the individual Services Family Centers where there are family programs, training opportunities or research and program development opportunities for working with Families and Service Members. Good luck

      1. Martha Beck    

        It seems to me that one of the problems in helping our Veterans in the field of mental health is getting them seen in their initial stages when seeking help or when they are in crisis. Wouldn’t it seem feasible that a Bachelors prepared student would be able to provide at least an initail intake or initital crisis management? Supervision and on-going education of these folks
        could be a requirement before serving in the mental health field. Because the competency levels would be varrying, why be so black and white in the requirements? After all, when in time of war don’t we draft all eligible persons? Yes, serving our Veterans with PTSD and ongoing war related issues is vital, even critical, especially when THEY make the first call (iwthout having to be referred). So, let’s cut some slack and begin to utilize those professionals/para professionals who are more than competent and capable. The VA system tends to under utilize those who are able to bring the statistics of our “unserved” Veterans down to a more manageable number.

  6. Jason Kahl    

    60% of eligible Veterans in the United State either Pays someone else or goes WITHOUT rather than get Free or Reduced Government Run Health Care. If it becomes a Mandate in 2014 you can bet the other 14 MILLION veterans will sign up just NOT to pay the penalty. Last year VA spent 58.8 Billion on 8 Million Veterans; what will the tax bill be for 22 Million? What will the wait time be? How much MORE than 10% increases will be needed across the board…what will the wait time be if only a SMALL percentage of Veterans acttually started to USE SERVICES in 2014…I think you have TWO YEARS to increase EVERYTHING by at least 30-40% across the board…

  7. David Davis    

    We need to wake up and fast!!!!! This government couldn’t take out a hamburger at a Mc Donald’s drive thru. They think that someone with a masters degree or a doctorates degree is going to really want to work for an agency that promotes friends, family, and in essence anyone that will kiss their asses and agree with the implementation of their policies. Wow we need to push this government out of the health care and disability awards program in general. I wouldn’t believe it if they told me it was raining outside I’d have to see it and feel it for myself because they are such corruptable liars and traitors to the American people. To delay and deny claims and medical attention because they don’t have the time or money is an excuse for injustice. We need men and women of integrity and desire to ensure that veterans and all of our citizens are cared for. Putting these people like a General Shenseki in charge is like putting a puppett in charge of the police department. What a joke more men and women at the problem without first identifying what type of training and treatment will be needed for both the veteran and provider are typical solutions of a poorly run government. A committment to people is needed first good luck America cause these politicians are out for themselves.

    1. mike    

      I think america has woke up now. Its just the beginning for many vets and many more to come. They truely need to address all these issue fast because they’re only going to get worse as time goes on. They will not go away because the american people understand what exactly is going on with veterans and has been for many many years. Its just that it finally has caught up with them and now they are drowning in claims and lawsuits. The problem is they are dragging there feet hoping it all goes away. The only thing dragging there feet is going to do is make it harder on the vet to seek out help and end up costing them more in the long run, because vets , spouses, and families arent going to allow it to go away anymore. Wars arent cheep, not only costly from the very beginning but the real cost is when these vets come home with dissabilities and now the government has to pay and they are trying to hide the real truth but its already uncovered. They cant hide anymore. These vets deserve what is rightfully owed to them. It shouldnt have to come down to hiring an attorney for justice to be done.

  8. B.J. Harris    

    Has anybody at the VA ever considered hiring Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors to fill any of these upcoming 1,900 mental health positions? Instead of continuing to fill VA mental health positions with Social Workers, why don’t they hire health care professionals specifically trained to diagnosis psychological disorders in the 1st place? Social Workers, while very dedicated and skilled, are NOT trained mental health professionals. Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors are. What is the problem here? Veterans should have the best mental health care possible. Licensed Counselors need jobs. Hire Licensed Counselors to diagnosis and treat Veterans with mental health issues. This is not rocket science.

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