Congress Passes Bill to Include Counselors in VA Programs
Inclusion of mental health counselors as providers at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), a top policy goal for the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA), passed both the U.S. House and Senate during the waning hours of the 109th Congress. The provision, included in S. 3421, the Veterans Benefits, Healthcare, and Information Act, opens up the VA health care system to mental health counselors, increasing access to care for veterans. S. 3421 now goes to President Bush to be signed into law.
The bill, which passed the House by voice vote and the Senate under unanimous consent, includes the AMHCA and ACA provision to add mental health counselors to the list of appointed positions within the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA). The provision would also delineate the qualifications mental health counselors would need to be appointed to a position in the VHA.