The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that together with the Department of Defense, on-site Vet Center counseling services, outreach staff and other services will now be available during training and drill weekends.
“This partnership will increase our ability to offer access to services to our Guard Soldiers and Airmen and their families who live in remote locations,” Chief of the National Guard Bureau (NGB) Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said. “Ultimately this partnership will positively impact the readiness of our force.”
Established by Congress in 1979, Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers that provide a wide range of social and psychological services to include professional readjustment counseling for eligible Veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components, and their families.
Vet Center counselors and staff – many of whom are veterans themselves – are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma according to a VA news release that came out earlier today.
“This relationship between the VA and the National Guard further advances the department’s efforts to decrease service member and veteran suicide,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “Vet Center staff will provide counseling and referral to those who may be under stress and at risk for self-harm.”
The news release also stated that Guard suicides have dropped to the lowest rate in the past five years when comparing annual data from January to August. However, those numbers are not being released to the public according to Maj. Robert Perino from NGB Public Affairs.
Statistics provided by the Department of Defense for the first quarter of the 2019 suicide report, show that in the past five years there has been an average of 121 suicides from Guard personnel annually.
Perino also said that at this time, there has been no determination made whether there is a direct correlation between the lower suicide rate and programs similar to Vet Center services, but the NGB is examining the information.
There was no start date as to when Vet Center will be made available and calls and email requests to both the VA and the NGB have not been returned. NatVets will make that available if answered.