WASHINGTON--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--President Obama recently signed the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill into law. This new law removed barriers to employment for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) to work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This important legislation will significantly improve the availability of qualified clinicians who can treat veterans seeking mental health services.
In 2006, a law was enacted to permit the VA to hire LMFTs. However, the job specifications required LMFT applicants to have graduated from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Many of the California marriage and family therapy programs preceded the establishment of COAMFTE and are, instead, part of regionally accredited institutions. This was an insurmountable employment barrier for 95% of California’s LMFTs qualified to treat our nation’s veterans.
The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT), an organization representing 32,000 Marriage and Family Therapists, appealed to the VA and advocated for legislation to remove the COAMFTE requirement and allow LMFTs to serve the rising number of veterans with mental health needs in the VA.
“California has the largest veteran population in the nation and over 40,000 LMFTs. Given the documented challenges with veterans’ access to mental health services, CAMFT is pleased to have LMFTs be part of the solution,” said CAMFT’s Executive Director Jill Epstein.
LMFTs are qualified to treat severe mental illnesses including, but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorders, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and alcohol and substance abuse. Thus, LMFTs are qualified to provide the mental health services necessary within the Veterans Medical Centers.
According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, 18.5% of the veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from either major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Nineteen and a half percent of veterans in these two categories have experienced a traumatic brain injury.1 Additionally, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that nearly 13,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have alcohol dependence syndrome.2 These disorders alone have an enormous impact on the demand for veteran mental health treatment services. Approximately 50 percent of returning veterans who need treatment for mental health conditions seek counseling, but only slightly more than half who receive treatment get adequate care.3 This new legislation is critical in the effort to increase the number of licensed clinicians that are eligible to treat veterans within the VA healthcare system.
To assist LMFTs in providing high-quality mental health services to veterans, CAMFT supports PsychArmor Institute’s program to provide free on-line training courses to enhance LMFTs’ understanding of the unique needs of veterans. The on-line library of over 100 educational courses include subjects such as “Understanding Invisible Wounds of War,” “Comprehensive PTSD,” “Suicide in the Military,” and many more. “PsychArmor Institute is proud to have CAMFT promote these training courses that will be key in preparing LMFTs to more effectively treat veterans and support their families,” said Marjorie Morrison, CEO and Founder of PsychArmor Institute.
CAMFT will be reaching out to VA clinics throughout the state to help facilitate employment opportunities for LMFTs. Epstein added: “The passing of this law is a great achievement for CAMFT, a great opportunity for LMFTs, and a great option for our country’s veterans! We look forward to working with the VA on the implementation of this historic legislation.”
About California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT)
CAMFT is an independent professional organization of over 32,000 members representing Marriage and Family Therapists. It is dedicated to advancing the profession, maintaining high standards of professional ethics, upholding the qualifications for the profession, and expanding awareness of the mental health treatment provided by Marriage and Family Therapists for individuals, couples, and families. For more information about CAMFT, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or visit www.camft.org.
About PsychArmor Institute
PsychArmor Institute is a national nonprofit that provides free education and support to all Americans who work with, live with, or care for military veterans and their families. PsychArmor recruits nationally recognized subject matter experts to create and deliver online courses on relevant issues related to veterans and their families. Our online training developers use engaging and interactive technology to deliver this critical information to the learner through a sophisticated learning management system. In addition, our "Helping You Help Veterans" support line provides continual assistance and vetted resources to civilians, ensuring they are armed with all the tools needed to effectively assist military veterans and their families. For more information about PyschArmor, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@PsychArmor) or visit PsychArmor.org.
1 Tanielian, Terri, Lisa H. Jaycox, Terry L. Schell, Grant N. Marshall, M. Audrey Burnam, Christine Eibner, Benjamin R. Karney, Lisa S. Meredith, Jeanne S. Ringel and Mary E. Vaiana. Invisible Wounds: Mental Health and Cognitive Care Needs of America's Returning Veterans. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2008. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9336.html
2 National Veterans Foundation “Troubling Veteran Mental Health Facts and Statistics that Need to be Addressed” (March 25, 2016) http://nvf.org/veteran-mental-health-facts-statistics/
3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; http://www.samhsa.gov/veterans-military-families