Although Vet Centers have been a longtime resource for Veterans; Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve service members may not be aware they are also eligible to use the service.
Vet Centers provide outreach and support including counseling (individual, group, marriage, or Family counseling), financial, housing and life coping skills counseling, resource referrals and care coordination through their Readjustment Counseling Service.
“We recognized the need for counseling among those in the National Guard and Reserves who are met with the challenges of deployment, may be under stress, or at risk for self-harm,” VA officials said.
The counseling is strictly confidential and records are not shared with any DOD or community health agency, and are kept separate from other military records.
A June 2019 Memorandum of Understanding established the formal partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Guard Bureau to provide greater access to behavioral health support for National Guard service members and their Families during training and drill weekends.
National Guard units can schedule Vet Center support for their units on drill weekends by contacting their local Vet Center through www.vetcenter.va.gov. There are 300 Vet Centers nationwide, and 83 Mobile Vet Centers. Vet Centers staff interested in supporting National Guard units can reach out to the National Guard Behavioral Health Contacts to provide support via www.nationalguard.mil/wrf.
National Guard members who served on Active Duty in any combat theater or area of hostility, experienced military sexual trauma while on Active Duty or during inactive training periods, or provided emergent medical care or mortuary services to casualties of war while on Active Duty, are also eligible to receive support from Vet Centers. In October 2020, Vet Center eligibility was expanded to Reserve and National Guard members who responded to a national emergency or disaster.
“All eligible service members and their Families are encouraged to utilize these services before manageable problems become unmanageable,” said Rear Adm. Matt Kleiman, National Guard Bureau’s Director of Psychological Health and Chief of the Warrior Resilience and Fitness Office.
Eligible National Guard members and their Family members can visit a local Vet Center location www. vetcenter.va.gov or call the Vet Center Call Center at 877-WAR-VETS (927-8387). Vet Centers staff will work to connect noneligible members to other available resources.
“Through our partnership with the VA, NGB is providing early identification, counseling, and referral support to our geographically-dispersed service members," said NG officials. "From FY19 to FY20 we have seen a 58% increase in the number of National Guard members seeking services at an MVC during drill weekends and a 158% increase in those accessing support at an off-site Vet Center location,” officials said.