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VA and National Guard now provide on-site counseling during training weekends

Washington DC VA Medical Center (Veterans Health/Flickr)

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) formalized a partnership on June 28 between its Vet Centers and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) to provide Vet Center counseling, outreach staff and other services to Guard members during training or drill weekends.

VA’s 300 Vet Centers, its 80 Mobile Vet Centers and a 24/7 call center provide community-based counseling for a wide range of social and psychological services, including confidential readjustment counseling and outreach and referral to eligible veterans, active-duty, and National Guard and Reserve members and their families.

Vet Center counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma.

Suicide prevention is a top priority for the National Guard, which experienced the highest rate of suicide among military components in 2017. Since then, VA has seen a 38 percent increase in National Guard service members seeking Vet Center services, according to VA data analyzed from Oct. 1, 2017, to July 31, 2018, and compared with data from Oct. 1, 2018, to July 31, 2019.

The good news is that suicides across the Guard components have dropped to the lowest point they have been in the past five years when comparing annual data from January to August. NGB is carefully examining the information to determine whether a direct correlation exists between the reduction of suicides so far in 2019, and this engagement with Vet Center counseling.

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Nearly 300,000 veterans and active-duty service members received Vet Center services in 2018.

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© 2019 The Providence Journal