Mental Health Care and Our Nation's Veterans: GAO Report to Congress

Apr 04, 2022

On March 28th, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the report, Veterans Health Care: Efforts to Hire Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors (LPHMC) and Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT).

GAO conducted this study as required by a provision in the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (Hannon Act) that calls for a review of hiring and promotion practices of LPMHCs, and MFTs within the VA. This study is shared with Chairman Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Mark Takano of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs (HASC and SASC). After reviewing, the House and Senate Committees will make a congressional recommendation to the VA to improve their hiring and promotion practices.

The study pointed out that as a policy, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Health Administration (VHA) set overall hiring goals for mental health professionals. However, the VA medical facilities have full discretion of how they hire based on workforce needs.

The study also demonstrated that VA facilities have increased to near five hundred since 2010, and the LPMHC and MFT profession were present in more than two-thirds of VA facilities in fiscal year 2021. Despite the increase, other professionals in psychology and social work make up the majority of the VA mental health workforce. Overall, LPMHCs and MFTs combined make up close to four percent of the VA mental health workforce, compared to 45 percent of psychologist, and 51 percent of social workers.

In a joint effort, the American Counseling Association and the Military and Government Counseling Association (MGCA), an ACA division, met with the GAO to provide expert input to support parity in hiring and promotions within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACA will continue working with Congress and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to improve parity for any counselors that chooses to support our nation’s veterans within the VA.

For more information and questions, please contact the ACA Government Affairs and Public Policy team at

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