Walla Walla to get vets center

The center will be at the VA or elsewhere in the Valley, an official said.


WALLA WALLA -- The city is in line to receive a new community center for veterans, officials said Monday.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki announced combat veterans will receive readjustment counseling and other assistance in 28 more communities across the country in 2010.

"VA is committed to providing high-quality outreach and readjustment counseling to all combat veterans," Shinseki said in a news release. "These 28 new vet centers will address the growing need for those services."

Such centers, now numbering 232, are already in every state and are a key component of VA's mental-health program, providing veterans with mental-health screening and post-traumatic stress disorder counseling.

The Walla Walla Vet Center will be located either on the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus or elsewhere in the Walla Walla Valley, noted Brian Westfield, local VA director.

Staff offers counseling on employment, family issues and education to combat veterans and family members, as well as bereavement counseling for families of service members killed on active duty. Counseling for veterans who were sexually harassed on active duty is also offered.

Access to those services is earned through service in a combat zone or area of hostility and are provided at no cost to veterans or their families.

Staff typically includes small, multidisciplinary teams, which may include social workers, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, master's-level counselors and outreach specialists.

More than 70 percent of vet center employees are veterans, a majority of whom served in combat zones, Shinseki said.

The Vet Center program was established in 1979 by Congress, recognizing that many Vietnam veterans suffered from readjustment problems.� In 2008, the Vet Center program provided for more than 1.1 million visits to over 167,000 Veterans, including over 53,000 visits by more than 14,500 veteran families.


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