Who do you serve? We offer readjustment counseling to any vet who deployed to a combat zone; in addition, we treat any victims of MST (military sexual trauma), whether or not they deployed. Finally, we provide bereavement services to family members of service members who were killed in action. We have seen veterans who have served in conflicts ranging from WWII, to Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, etc.
What services do you offer? We primarily offer mental health counseling. This can be provided in individual or group counseling formats. We also offer couples and family counseling, in service of assisting the veteran in making a satisfying transition from military to civilian life. We also have a 52-week, court-mandated domestic violence group. In addition, we facilitate referrals for VA benefits, VA medical care, housing and basic needs, employment services, and Veterans Court.
Are you part of the VA? Are your records part of the VA? Vet Centers are under Readjustment Counseling Services, an organization which is part of the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). There are 300 Vet Centers around the country (and in Guam and American Samoa), each affiliated with a nearby VA Medical Center. However, though part of the VA, we have a separate organizational “chain of command” and a totally separate record-keeping system, which is not part of the VA medical record system. VA providers do NOT have any access to Vet Center records.
Do you prescribe medications? No; we provide mental health (talk) counseling. Any psychiatric medication needs are typically addressed through a referral to a VAMC psychiatrist.
Do you help veterans to file claims or receive benefits? Do you do PTSD evaluations for VA claims? We do not directly assist veterans with claims or benefits processing, but we do facilitate referrals to County VSO’s (Veterans Service Officers) or VSO’s affiliated with veterans organizations (such as the VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, etc.). We do not perform “PTSD evaluations” in support of a VA disability claim, but are able to refer such requests to the VA-Long Beach Hospital for a comprehensive PTSD evaluation, typically conducted by a VA psychiatrist and support staff.
Do you work with family members, or just veterans? We can see family members (spouses, parents, offspring), if it assists the veteran in his/her readjustment. We provide couples counseling, family counseling, and a family support group. We can see family members on a limited basis, but focusing on their own problems (e.g., family-of-origin issues) is mostly beyond the scope of Vet Center counseling services.
How much do you charge? What is the limit for number of appointments? Vet Center services are always FREE OF CHARGE. They are a LIFE-LONG Benefit which has been earned through a veteran’s military service. The only requirement is a copy of the dd214, to establish eligibility for services. Vet Centers do not have any numerical limits for number of sessions which can be provided, or length of eligibility for services. Some veterans have been involved with the Vet Center, off and on, as needed, over a span of decades.
How long does a vet have to wait before being seen by a counselor? Most initial intake appointments are scheduled within a week of contact by the veteran. We also have walk-in hours, when a vet can be seen the same day they come into the office. Any veteran who walks into the Vet Center at any time can request a face-to-face (at least brief) contact with a counselor, and it will be provided.
Do you do substance abuse treatment/rehab? We do not have a formal chemical dependency treatment program, but can provide limited substance-abuse counseling, and can facilitate referrals to rehab facilities.
I am the vet’s spouse/partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/parent/offspring. Can I schedule appointments for the vet or get information about the veteran’s sessions? Privacy is a top priority for the Vet Centers, and (with a few legal exceptions, such as mandated reporting of abuse), we will not release ANY information about a veteran’s Vet Center care, unless he/she has signed a Release of Information (ROI) form, specifically authorizing disclosure of the specific information designed on the ROI form.
Do you provide counseling after regular business hours? Our Vet Center offers evening appointments – we are open until 8pm Mon-Thu; in addition, we are open on Saturdays, from 8am-4:30pm. Any phone calls after those hours are automatically forwarded to the VA Combat Call Center, which takes messages and relays them back to the appropriate staffperson (usually through secure email) to receive when the Vet Center reopens. The VA has a 24-hour crisis phoneline at 1-800-273-8255 (then press “1”) for after-hours counseling or crisis needs.
Will my Vet Center records be released if they are subpoenaed for court? Not necessarily. We will typically consult with our VA legal counsel to determine the most appropriate response which protects client confidentiality while complying with the needs of the subpoena to the extent possible. Among possible responses which might be considered are obtaining client ROI to forward records, filing a motion to “quash” the subpoena, negotiating a limited release of certain client records, etc.
What kind of counselors work at the Vet Center? Most Vet Center counselors have earned an advanced degree (master’s or doctorate) in a counseling-related field, and are licensed as psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, or licensed professional counselors. Any unlicensed counselors are typically enrolled in advanced degree programs and may be doing an internship at the Vet Center; or they may have completed their degrees and are accumulating supervised employment towards licensure. They are always supervised by licensed Vet Center counselors as well as the Vet Center Director. Nationally, at least 3 out of every 4 Vet Center counselors are themselves veterans, which enhances rapport, empathy, and credibility.
Does the Vet Center provide mileage reimbursement, like the VA medical center? Unfortunately, the Vet Center does not currently provide mileage reimbursement. We have sought, at least, to be conveniently located in the community, to be accessible to the greatest number of veterans, and near major bus lines.