WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs has hired 815 Peer Specialists and Peer Apprentices, exceeding the hiring goal set in President Obama’s Aug. 31, 2012. Executive Order aimed at improving access to mental health services for Veterans, service members and military families.
On June 3, VA announced the department met another goal established by the Executive Order by hiring 1,600 additional mental health professionals.
“We have made strong progress to expand Veterans’ access to quality mental health services, but we must continue to increase access,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “These newly hired employees, Veterans themselves, are uniquely equipped to guide fellow Veterans through difficult issues.”
Peer Specialists and Peer Support Apprentices are a unique cadre of people joining VA’s mental health care teams. They are Veterans who have successfully dealt with their own mental health recovery for a minimum of one year. Peer Specialists are trained and certified, while Peer Support Apprentices are undergoing training and certification to become Peer Specialists. An additional component from the Executive Order mandated that all training for these peer counselors would be complete by the end of the year. VA remains on track to meet that requirement.