VA introduces Vet Center Scholarship program after testers’ efforts

Tester secured a new VA grant program as part of his milestone Hannon law to help prospective VA mental health professionals;

There are five veterinary centers in Montana located in Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell, Missoula and Helena

Following the efforts of Senator Jon Tester, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that it will establish a Vet Center Scholarship program to support individuals pursuing degrees in psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy, or mental health counseling and then will work in veterinary centers. Tester successfully secured the scholarship as part of his milestone Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (Hannon Act).

“Vet Centers play a critical role in providing quality mental health services and support to veterans, service members and their families — particularly in rural states like Montana.” said Chairman Tester. “As such, I am proud to have helped deliver this grant program, which will strengthen our mental health workforce and in turn, assist Vet Centers in recruiting qualified talent to continue providing mental health counseling to those in need.”

Named after a Montana veteran who committed suicide, Tester championed it Hannon law in his capacity as Chief Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, to strengthen Virginia’s mental health workforce and improve rural veterans’ access to care through alternative and local treatment options. As part of the law, Tester secured a provision offering grants to psychiatrists who commit to work in vet centers after graduation. Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including professional counseling for eligible veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve members and their families.

There are five veterinary centers in Montana located in Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell, Missoula and Helena. The VA is expected to award its first round of scholarships in the summer of 2023, providing funding for up to two years of postgraduate study for individuals pursuing these degrees. Upon graduation, these mental health professionals will then spend six years working full-time at one of VA’s 300 Vet Centers across the country, particularly in underserved areas.