Mobile center offers free counseling services to veterans in need
The next time you’re at a veterans’ sporting event, be on the lookout for a large, conspicuous truck with “Vet Center” written on the side panel.
From the outside, the mobile unit looks fairly plain, but the impact of the services it provides to veterans and their families is immeasurable.
That’s because inside, free counseling services are offered for any veteran who hasn’t received a dishonorable discharge. The mobile center is fully funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but all records are kept in-house, independent of the VA, and are confidential. There are currently 80 similar units across the country.
The center is geared toward war-zone veterans, typically those in rural areas and those who have limited or no access to the VA.
It caters to veterans who need help with everything from post-traumatic stress disorder and family/marital counseling to employment assessment and military sexual trauma. It is also a federal emergency asset for medical transport and evacuation.
“Now, they [veterans] have no excuse not to get help,” says Dave Brown, readjustment counseling technician. “We are community-based. There is a counselor assigned to this unit. We are family-oriented because what they are dealing with, their families are dealing with.”
The unit is complete with wheelchair lifts, private counseling areas and a folding exam table. Counselors and VA specialists can participate and interact with veterans either in person or remotely in real time via the unit’s satellite connection.
“If we [VA] get our budget cut, in order to deal with our veterans in outlying areas or distance, telemedicine is going to be a big thing,” Brown says. “Nobody likes it, but this is going to be one way of overcoming the challenges of distance and serving the people that we need to serve.”
Brown says he is trying to change the dynamic of what happened to Vietnam veterans and many other veterans, so Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans don’t have to go through the same situation as the Vietnam veterans.
“The sooner we can get them to help, the sooner they can recover the quality of life and the functionality to the highest degree that we can get them,” Brown says. “We can’t make a veteran who needs our help come here for services. We tell them about them, get them information, maybe someday he’ll change his mind.”
The Vet Center call center can be reached 24/7 at 1-877-927-8387, 1-800-273-8255 (press option 1) or online at vetcenter.va.gov.