109th Congress Passes Critical Veterans Bill: Counselors Included as Eligible Providers

109th Congress Passes Critical Veterans Bill: Counselors Included as Eligible Providers

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As many of you know, prior to the adjournment of the 109th Congress in December 2006, an agreement was reached on critical veterans’ legislation. The $3.2 billion Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act of 2006 (S. 3421) is an collection of House and Senate initiatives that had been in limbo for months while lawmakers tried to reach a compromise.


S. 3421 included a provision allowing licensed mental health counselors to be hired by Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) programs. This is an important legislative victory for the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) not only because it allows counselors to compete for positions at the VA, but because it will also force the federal government to create a job classification specifically for mental health counselors. This is significant to future recognition of mental health counselors in other federal job settings.


AMHCA is hopeful that the VA will soon begin the development of regulations to implement the new law. The proposed regulations will be published in the Federal Register to allow a public comment period. Following VA review of the public’s comments, the regulations will be made final, which could take up to a year or longer. AMHCA will follow this process closely and will be contacting the VA to set up a meeting to provide input into the process. Please look for updates on the implementation of this new law in the AMHCA’s newsletter, The Advocate, E-News from Washington, and other AMHCA publications.

 
For more information, please contact Beth Powell at AMHCA at 800-326-2642, ext. 105 or by e-mail at bpowell@amhca.org.

 

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