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House Passes Bill to Increase Access to Mental Health Services for our Nation’s Veterans

by Danny Le | Sep 30, 2020
Congress passed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veteran Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, and now the bill is on the President’s desk for him to sign into law.

On September 23, the United States House of Representatives passed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veteran Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 (S.785). The bill also passed the U.S. Senate on August 5, 2020, and now the bill is on the President’s desk for him to sign into law.

The bill will require the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to improve access to mental health care. It may also provide additional career opportunities for counselors currently working in the V.A., as well as create opportunities for counselors interested in working for the V.A.

Once the bill is signed into law, counselors can expect several changes including:

  1. A review of staffing levels for mental health professionals.

    Counselors will have the opportunity to work with their congressional representative and the V.A. to encourage them to focus on hiring more counselors. (Sidenote: The V.A. title for Licensed Professional Counselors is Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors (LPMHC). Employment opportunities for LPMHCs can be found here.)

  2. This bill requires the V.A. to develop a new occupational series for Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors.

    Within the federal government, occupational series are designed to classify a position, and the employment title. Most importantly, it provides clear guidance on salary expectations. Currently, the V.A. has an occupational series for LPMHCs, and this bill would likely not include LPMHCs in a new series created by this bill.

  3. The bill will provide a $174 million grant over a five year time period for local organizations.

    The grant program is designated to assist Veterans with mental health concerns. It has not been determined what the process and requirements will be in order to be awarded the grant. ACA will work with the V.A. to obtain the information organizations will need to apply for the grant.

  4. The V.A. will improve telehealth capabilities, and expand opportunities for veterans to utilize the telehealth services.

    ACA will continue to advocate for telehealth services to expand within and beyond the V.A. Though this service is not appropriate for all clients, it is safe and convenient for many based on personal circumstances that limit mobility to meet in person.

Once the bill is signed, we will provide an update and detailed analysis of the bill. Please reach out to the Government Affairs team with any questions by e-mailing advocacy@counseling.org. And to support future events, visit the ACA Action Center to become an advocate for the profession.

On behalf of the American Counseling Association, we would like to thank our ACA advocates for doing your part in advocating for this legislation.  

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