On March 24, 2021, APA provided recommendations (PDF, 212KB) to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs advocating for veterans who are experiencing increased mental health needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
APA provided the following recommendations in testimony:
- Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must work together to ensure that VA offers culturally competent mental health care to veterans across the VA system.
- VA must ensure availability and physical accessibility to the full continuum of care for veterans, from at-home telehealth to in-person outpatient care to inpatient and residential care.
- VA must continue to focus on veteran reemployment initiatives through Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) and collaborate with other departments and agencies, such as the Department of Labor Veterans' Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS), as a way to improve mental health and well-being.
- Congress must fully fund, and VA must fully implement, provisions from P.L. 116-171, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act that increase VA mental health staffing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected veterans of ethnic and racial minority groups and further exposed the need for culturally relevant mental health services for veterans of all backgrounds. APA emphasized the collaboration between the VA and Congress to ensure culturally competent mental health care to veterans. APA also recommended ensuring accessibility to mental health services through continued telehealth and in-person visits.
APA has also prioritized advocating for psychologists to have hiring privileges under full Title 38 hiring authority. APA was also pleased that Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Vice President Tom Potter gave testimony during the committee hearing stating that “the VA needs to move psychologists under the hiring authority, which provides more competitive salary than the federal GS scale.” It is of high priority for Congress to invest in expanding mental health staff to provide the level of care that veterans need.
APA has long advocated for expanding mental health services and coverage for America’s veterans, and psychologists have served as VA providers for decades as clinicians, educators, and researchers. APA will continue fighting for the needs of psychologists within VA and for the mental health needs of veterans.
For more information, contact Sophie Friedl.