New Law Increases Mental Health Personnel at VA Facilities

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More mental health clinicians will work in Veterans Administration (VA) medical facilities following legislation President Obama signed last month instituting major reforms to the troubled system.

Part of the $16 billion allocated in the law will provide incentives for the VA to hire more psychiatrists and other mental health support staff. Also, the cap on medical school debt repayment under the Health Professionals Educational Assistance Program would double from $60,000 to $120,000, Psychiatric News reported.

Graduate medical residency positions at the VA will increase by up to 1,500 over a five-year period, with slots in primary care, mental health and other specialties given preference.

“In 2012, the VA Office of the Inspector General identified recruiting and retaining psychiatrists as the VA’s greatest challenge in the mental health area,” American Psychiatric Association President Paul Summergrad, MD, in a statement. “This legislation puts in place several actions to directly address that shortage and will result in many more veterans having timely access to needed psychiatric services.”

The law’s other provisions include ways for veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or who can’t get an appointment within 30 days to obtain care from doctors or hospitals that are not part of the VA system.

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New Law Increases Mental Health Personnel at VA Facilities

President Obama signed legislation August 7 instituting major reforms in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that includes initiatives to expand access to mental health care and increase the number of mental health clinicians in the VA's health system.

The $16 billion legislation provides several incentives for the VA to hire more health care professionals, including psychiatrists. One would raise the cap on medical education debt repayment under the Health Professionals Educational Assistance Program from the current $60,000 to $120,000.

In addition, the number of graduate medical education residency positions in the VA in areas with health professional shortages would increase by up to 1,500 over five years, with priority given to primary care, mental health, and several other specialties. 

 
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