(U.S. Senate) – Following Senator Jon Tester’s efforts, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that it will establish a Vet Center Scholarship Program to assist individuals pursuing graduate degrees in psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy, or mental health counseling who will then work at Vet Centers. Tester successfully secured the scholarship as part of his landmark Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (Hannon Act).
“Vet Centers play a critical role in delivering quality mental health services and support to veterans, servicemembers, and their families—especially in rural states like Montana,” said Chairman Tester. “That’s why I’m proud to have worked to deliver this scholarship program that will strengthen our mental health workforce, and in turn help Vet Centers hire qualified talent to keep providing mental health counseling to those in need.”
Named for a Montana veteran who lost his life to suicide, Tester championed the Hannon Act in his capacity as the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to bolster VA’s mental health workforce and increase rural veterans’ access to care through alternative and local treatment options. As part of the law, Tester secured a provision offering scholarships to mental health professionals who commit to work at Vet Centers after graduation. Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including professional counseling to eligible veterans, servicemembers, National Guard and Reserve components and their families.
Montana is home to five Vet Centers located in Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell, Missoula, and Helena. VA expects to award its first round of scholarships in the summer of 2023, providing funding to cover up to two years of graduate studies for individuals pursuing these degrees. Upon completion of their degrees, these mental health professionals will then serve full time for a period of six years at one of VA’s 300 Vet Centers across the country, specifically, in underserved areas.