The VA Vet Center ProgramUpdated: September 9, 2020
Veterans leaving military service for life in the civilian world have a great deal of pressure to deal with in the transition from life in uniform. These pressures can include the need to start a new career, begin a degree program, finding a place to live and a home or apartment in a community, etc.
It’s not easy to deal with these pressures, and it is best not to face them alone, which is why the Department of Veterans Affairs created the Vet Centers program.
Vet Centers are described by the VA as “community-based counseling centers” that offer social services, counseling, and other psychological services to veterans and their families.
VA Vet Centers aren’t just for making the transition from military to civilian life, they also provide help with dealing with traumatic military or life experiences, marriage counseling, family counseling, and much more.
Who Is Eligible To Use A Vet Center
VA Vet Centers are intended for:
- Active duty service members
- Members of the National Guard
- Military family members
Those are basic categories; the VA official site adds more specific eligibility information. For military members, the criteria includes those in uniform who:
- Have served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility
- Experienced sexual trauma
- Provided direct emergent medical care or mortuary services, while serving on active military duty
- Served as a member of an unmanned aerial vehicle crew that provided direct support to operations in a combat zone or area of hostility
- Vietnam Era veterans who have accessed care at a Vet Center prior to Jan. 1, 2004
The first category, service in a combat theater or an “area of hostility” includes (but is not limited to) campaigns and locations such as:
- World War II
- Korean War
- Vietnam War
- Desert Storm
- Desert Shield
- Bosnia Kosovo
- Operations in the former Yugoslavia area
- Global War on Terrorism
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
VA Vet Centers are also open to family members, “for military related issues when it is found aid in the readjustment of those that have served.” This includes grief and bereavement counseling for military families who have lost a loved one who served. Vet Centers are staffed by counselors and staff members who perform outreach services. Some of the staff members are veterans themselves.
How Much Do VA Vet Center Services Cost?
VA Vet Center services and activities are free to all eligible users.
What Services Are Offered At A VA Vet Center?
Services at individual centers may vary depending on demand, staffing, and other requirements but in general they may include:
- Readjustment counseling
- Transition advice from military to civilian life
- Help recovering from traumatic events associated with military service
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Marriage counseling
- Family counseling
- Referrals to other VA services or assistance
- Suicide prevention
- Outreach and education including PDHRA, community events, etc.
- Substance abuse assessment and referral
- Employment assessment & referral
- VBA benefits explanation and referral
- Screening & referral for medical issues including TBI, depression, etc.
Where Are VA Vet Centers Located?
There are VA Vet Centers all across the United States. You can find the nearest facility to you by using the VA search tool provided at the official site.
Mobile Vet Centers
The VA operates mobile versions of these Vet Center programs. These mobile centers may be operating near you. It’s best to call your local or regional VA office to learn when mobile Vet Centers may be in operation. Like many similar operations, these mobile centers may be active during local or regional events or public gatherings. Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs to learn when these centers may be at work near you.
VA Vet Center Hotline
You don’t have to wait to get Vet Center assistance. You can call 1-877-WAR VETS (1.877.927.8387) which is a 24/7 confidential call center combat veterans and family members can call to get help and advice. This hotline is staffed by combat veterans from a variety of service eras; military family members also work this hotline. The call is free and available at any time, day or night.
Who Uses VA Vet Centers?
The VA official site says nearly three hundred thousand people including family members, National Guard, and Reserve members used Vet Center services at the agency’s some 300 locations nationwide. Those stats from 2018 include just under two million in-person visits.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News