This legislation contained a number of provisions relating to the health and well-being of our veterans, and it also concentrated on the delivery of that care. The key provision for the counseling community contained in H.R. 6416 authorized the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to hire Licensed Professional Counselors that have a doctoral degree.
Some of you are aware that when Congress authorized the VA to hire LPCs in 2006, the VA claimed that the new law did not give them the authority to hire an LPC who possessed a doctoral degree. In the rare occasions when the VA has announced job openings for LPCs, only those possessing a Master’s degree were deemed eligible for consideration. This new law corrects this nonsensical barrier that has been in place for 10 years.
VA facilities will now have the ability to open more positions to qualified LPCs who wish to serve our nation’s veterans and treat the invisible wounds of war. Our country loses approximately 22 veterans a day to suicide, and many more veterans struggle to make the transition to civilian life after serving our nation in uniform. More mental health clinicians means more veterans will get the treatment they deserve.
While we still have many legislative goals that we will continue to work toward, it is important to take note of this particular victory. It is especially important to recognize that members of ACA have been advocating for this specific issue to be resolved for more than five years. This provision was only included and signed into law due to the tireless and faithful efforts of ACA members who took the time to advocate for it by calling, emailing, and in some cases making a personal visit to their representatives in Washington. Without those efforts, we would never have been able to achieve this. Congratulations to all of you who participated in our advocacy campaigns—once again you have made a huge difference and helped to promote the counseling profession.