CounselorsEmpowerACA Government Affairs Blog

The ACA Government Affairs team strives to keep the counseling community connected with important legislative news, updates, and announcements that affect the profession. Questions? Want to get involved in our advocacy efforts? Email us at 


Jul 20, 2018

VA Issues New Qualification Standards for Professional Counselors

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued important new qualification standards for licensed professional counselors on April 3, a step the American Counseling Association has been pushing the agency to take for many years.

The revised standards enable licensed professional mental health counselors (LPMHCs) to fully participate in the VA health-care system, implementing a long-sought shift away from the department’s previous limited and piecemeal approach to working with licensed professional counselors.

“The ACA is very pleased that the VA issued these new standards,” American Counseling Association Chief Executive Officer Richard Yep said. “This marks a milestone in a public policy battle fought by ACA and its members for more than a decade.”

A Look at the New Standards

The revised standards clarify the scope of practice within the VA for professional counselors licensed at the independent practice level and enable professional counselors to work at supervisory levels and serve as program coordinators within the agency. In addition, the new standards enable the VA to recognize and accept doctoral degrees held by licensed professional counselors.

In a summary of the contents and major changes in the revision, the transmittal sheet on the standards noted “the addition of certain doctoral degrees as qualifying education and a Senior LPMHC assignment at the GS-12 grade level.”

“The new standards are effective on the date of this publication, however no action may be taken to convert or promote employees until training and guidance is received,” according to the transmittal sheet.

The new qualification standards will be incorporated into the electronic version of VA Handbook 5005, which is maintained on the Office of Human Resources Management web site.

ACA Members Were Instrumental

Yep praised ACA members for the key role they played in the development of the new VA standards.

“I’m grateful for the advocacy work done by ACA members on this issue,” he said. “This outcome could not have been achieved without their efforts. As a result of the hard work and perseverance of the ACA membership, the association has been able to fulfill its mission of making high-quality mental health care available to all of our nation’s veterans.”

Learn More

The new VA qualification standards for professional counselors are published here in their entirety: VA Qual Standards 

ACA Resources for Counselors Working With Veterans, Military Families


Counseling Today articles: Department of Veterans Affairs

Suicide Statistics Highlight Veteran Population’s Acute Need for Counseling, Inside and Outside of the VA (Sept. 2016)

VA Expands Policy to Allow Service Dogs (Aug. 2015)

Counseling Today articles: Military Clients

Ethical Considerations When Counseling Military Clients (Sept. 2017)

Hooah! Thoughts and Musings on Operation Immersion (Jan. 2017)

Controversies in the Evolving Diagnosis of PTSD (Feb. 2016)

Exploring the Impact of War (Sept. 2014)

A Passion to Serve: Veterans and Counseling Q+A (Feb. 2014)

Effective Treatment of Military Clients (Aug. 2013)

It’s Not All Guns and PTSD: Counseling with a Cultural Lens (Nov. 2012)

Journal of Counseling and Development articles: Military Clients

Meta-Analysis of Trauma-Focused Therapies for Treating the Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (June 2017)

Trauma Competency: An Active Ingredients Approach to Treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (June 2017)

Women in the National Guard: Coping and Barriers to Care (Jan. 2017)

Practice Briefs

The ACA Center for Counseling Practice, Policy, and Research offers Practice Briefs for ACA members. Practice Briefs, written by scholars in the counseling profession, are research-based summaries of best practices, evidence-based practices, and research-based approaches covering a wide variety of client-presenting issues and counseling topics. Each Practice Brief is several pages in length, includes references, and has been peer-reviewed by two co-editors before being accepted for publication. The Practice Briefs available to members include:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

ACA Member Blog: Mental Health from a Combat Veteran Perspective

Duane K. L. France, an ACA member blogger, is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a counselor working with veterans in Colorado.You can access his blog by clicking here.

ACA 2018 Conference Livestreaming Session: Military Clients

Soldier’s Heart: Counseling Combat Veterans at End of Life (April 2018)

DVD:  Military Clients

Rooted Sorrows—Emotional Burden to Emotional Health: Veterans with PTSD (2010)


Journal of Counseling and Development articles: Military Families

Systemic Barriers Faced by Women Trying to Leave Abusive Military Marriages (June 2017)

Webinar: Military Clients and Their Families

An Overview of Military Service Members and Their Families: How Mental Health Professionals Can Best Serve This Population (July 2017)



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