Did you serve in a combat zone or area of hostility, experience a military sexual trauma or serve as part of a mortuary affairs or drone crew? If so, you qualify for free community-based counseling at a VA Vet Center, regardless of when you served.
VA and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) talked about this and other topics during an #ExploreVA Facebook Live tour of a VA Vet Center in Alexandria, Virginia May 21. DAV’s Executive Director Garry Augustine and Mike Fisher, VA’s chief officer of Readjustment Counseling Service, led the tour giving an overview of the resources and services available at Vet Centers nationwide.
Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers. They provide individual and group counseling referral services free of charge in a safe and confidential environment. There are 300 brick-and-mortar Vet Centers across the country (including in American Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico). There are also 80 Mobile Vet Centers designed to reach those in under-served areas.
During the tour, Augustine and Fisher met the director of the Alexandria Vet Center, Carolyn Harris-Hutchinson.
“Our Vet Center probably sees about 30 to 40 Veterans on average per day. Our counselors see people back-to-back and we have multiple group counseling sessions throughout the week,” said Harris-Hutchinson. “We have walk-ins as well as people who have appointments.” She also pointed out that Vet Centers offer referrals to community-based resources.
Near the end of the tour, Fisher and Augustine visited a Mobile Vet Center to talk about its outreach functions.
“We’re really changing the model of what a Vet Center is,” said Fisher. “It’s all about decreasing barriers to care. Bringing the services to communities that need them at the level that they need them.”
Mobile Vet Centers are accessible to Veterans in the communities where they live. They provide regularly scheduled services at approximately 1,000 Community Access Points throughout the country such as local YMCAs, churches or schools to help reach more Veterans and their families.
To learn more about Vet Centers, visit explore.va.gov/health-care/vet-center-services.
If you missed the tour, check out some highlights from the event and questions from our Facebook Live audience below.
Several participants asked questions about eligibility for receiving counseling at Vet Centers.
Augustine and Fisher addressed confidentiality when speaking to counselors at Vet Centers.
“The only people who are going to know that you’re going to a Vet Center are the people you allow to know,” said Fisher. “It’s really about putting that Veteran or service member in control of who they want to be part of their care.”
The discussion also highlighted some of the unique aspects of Vet Centers, such as non-traditional hours and offering Veteran-to-Veteran connections.
More than 72 percent of employees at Vet Centers are Veterans, with the majority having served in combat. Connecting with other Veterans through services like group counseling has helped many Veterans with ongoing challenges after deployment.
VA representatives were available online to direct participants to their nearest Vet Center.
To locate a Vet Center near you, call 1-800-WAR-VETS (927-8387) or use VA’s Vet Center locator tool.
Stay tuned to the ExploreVA events page for information about upcoming events.