A Vet Center is a place where Veterans who served in combat, or experienced trauma/harassment, can come for service. Family members of deceased service members can also receive bereavement counseling at Vet Centers.
There are 232 community based Vet Centers located in all fifty states, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
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Jamie, a handsome young man from Tennessee, is excited about moving into a new apartment with his new bride.
Jamie is also 100% disabled due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
He is one of the many Veterans Alice Ford counsels on a regular basis to help him deal with his PTSD. She's a Veteran herself - an Army flight operations specialist and radio telephone operator - and when Veterans talk, she listens. Really listens.
Jamie survived an IED blast inches away from his head. Holding up his hand to indicate four-inches, "This much steel saved my life."
Alice helped Jamie tell his story and experiences while at the Vet Center. He credits Alice and the Vet Center with helping him deal with the effects of PTSD and is grateful for the counseling sessions which he says, "She has helped me a whole lot. She makes it possible for me to get along. When I listen to Alice, I want to be a counselor, too. I think I could be a good one."
Alice: "Jamie is making great progress. I am so happy for him and his new wife. And happy that the Vet Center was able to help him to cope with his life."
As Team Leader at the Alexandria Vet Center, Alice is proud that "all of the people here honestly care. We all think this is such a rewarding job."
Nardia Saunders concurs: "Recently, a Veteran told me, 'I never thought this would go away.' That is a great feeling when a client tells you how much you have helped him."
The Vet Centers other important services.
Counseling for Military Sexual Trauma
Alice is certified to counsel Veterans suffering from Military Sexual Trauma (MST), the term the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening acts of sexual harassment that occurred while a Veteran was serving on active duty or active duty for training. Such counseling is not limited to women only.
Another Vet Center service is bereavement counseling for surviving parents, spouses, children and siblings of service members who die of any cause while on active duty, and includes federally activated Reserve and National Guard personnel.
"I was in a woman's home 14 hours after she was notified her husband had been killed," Alice remembers quietly. It's not easy but it's necessary. And it's so important for the family. We understand, and most of all, we care."
Steven Nettles, another Veteran counselor at the Vet Center — 28 years in the Navy — adds that the most enjoyable part of his job is assisting Veterans to function effectively in society and encouraging them to succeed.
Steven has degrees in psychology which "enable me to have a better understanding of the myriad of personalities I encounter on a daily basis."
While the Vet Centers were originally set up to help returning Vietnam Veterans, they are now able to counsel all combat Veterans from all military conflicts, including World War II, Korea, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, and Kosovo/Bosnia. Most of the Veterans being seen at Vet Centers today are Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and subsequent operations within the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).
Vet Center locations are listed on the VA website. Check the Vet Centers web site for more information.
Referrals to Vet Center staff are also possible by calling 1-866-650-1030 during normal business hours.
By Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
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