WASHINGTON—The VA announced this week that it has hired 815 peer specialists and peer apprentices, exceeding a hiring goal for peer to peer counselors set in a 2012 presidential executive order that aims to expand mental health resources for veterans.
“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 said in a written statement. “These newly hired employees, veterans themselves, are uniquely equipped to guide fellow veterans through difficult issues.”
According to VA, peer specialists and peer support apprentices are veterans “who have successfully dealt with their own mental health recovery for a minimum of one year.” While peer specialists are trained and certified, peer support apprentices are in training to become peer specialists.
President Obama’s executive order directed the VA Secretary to hire and train 800 peer to peer counselors by December 31st of this year. VA says that it remains on track to meet the requirement to complete training of these peer counselors by the end of the year.
“We are proud to have exceeded the hiring goal established by the president in his executive order,” said Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Robert A. Petzel, in a written statement. “We are well on the way to have all of these new hires trained by the end of the calendar year.”
Earlier this year, VA announced that the agency had met another goal in the executive order by hiring 1,600 additional mental health professionals.