Looking for services to help one’s well being in a subtle environment? Vet Centers offer social, mental and emotional wellness in a confidential manner at low profile locations. Additionally, the centers provide connectivity to many resources available in the community.
“The confidentiality is a big asset of Vet Centers,” said Mike Jaeger, Army veteran and Southwest District Manager for the Texas Veterans Commission’s Claims Department. The centers themselves are somewhat nondescript. “The centers are often located in office buildings or strip centers.”
Vet Centers provide free readjustment counseling and services to veterans, active military and their families. The centers are a program of the VA. “It should be noted that the Vet Centers are a separate part of the VA and loosely affiliated with the VHA (Veterans Health Administration) side of the house. The VHA or VBA (Veterans Benefits Administration) cannot see or have access to the records of individuals who are under counseling at the Vet Center,” said Jaeger.
Veterans and their family members who have visited Vet Centers speak to the benefits.
“While I was in Afghanistan, I had made plans, things I would do, and then when I returned home, I just laid on the couch. I finally got to the point where I realized that I needed help. It was like a night and day environment, the differences between being at the vet center. Every week, just by talking to other people, you get more insights into your own psyche. I’ve built up a lot of skills to help me cope,” said Air National Guard veteran Michael, pictured.
Watch him and veterans of other eras talk about their experience at Vet Center video.
The Texas Veterans Commission became involved with Vet Centers as part of a recent effort by the centers to provide fuller service to veterans and increase their access to area resources by bringing in local veteran service organizations.
“The staff at the North East (San Antonio) Vet Center approached me to staff an office at their center once they finished revamping the office space,” said Jaeger. In June, the center was ready and Jaeger along with TVC Southwest Claims Staff Services Officer and Air Force veteran Gini Hockman quickly began providing service there.
Pictured from left are Jaeger and Hockman.
“The veterans were asking questions that the mental health providers had no knowledge of. Since we have been there, I have been asked to present information with a Q&A session on burial benefits, claims benefits and general VA questions to various groups of Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans,” said Jaeger. “At each of the various sessions, both the counselors and the veterans came away with ‘Wow, I did not know that’. Now both the veteran and the counselors have a ready source of information. Dr. Sammuel Garcia the center Director has been very enthusiastic about our presence.”
Jaeger noted the counseling the Vet Center provides includes readjustment counseling, military sexual trauma (MST) counseling, family counseling including children and bereavement counseling to survivors of an active-duty death. “They do this through individual and group counseling using several new and innovative techniques and styles,” said Jaeger. “One of the biggest things the Vet Center does is outreach to let veterans know that they are not forgotten and that there is assistance available for free.”
There are 20 Vet Centers in Texas. Check eligibility for services and find the Vet Center near you at https://www.vetcenter.va.gov/ .