Focus on Congress
VA facility would provide counseling services and employment resources to combat veterans and families that lost a loved one during military service
From the Office of Rep. Stephanie Murphy
WASHINGTON—U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of the Florida 7th District, which includes all of Seminole County, urged the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to establish a community-based facility in Seminole County to provide counseling and other services to active-duty service members and veterans who served in combat and to family members who lost a loved one as a result of military service. Currently, the VA operates such facilities in neighboring Orange, Lake, and Volusia counties, but not in Seminole County, which is home to about 22,000 veterans.
“Combat veterans make enormous sacrifices in defense of our nation, and they have earned our support as they transition to civilian life,” said Murphy. “I’ve heard from many veterans in Seminole County that they cannot easily access critical services from the VA, and many find it difficult to get to the nearest VA clinic, especially when they need urgent care. It’s time for the VA to dedicate additional resources to this underserved community who may be living with the unseen wounds of war.”
The facility would be administered by the VA’s Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS), which provides assistance in a confidential setting outside VA health care facilities. The RCS services include individual and group counseling; health screenings and referrals; assistance finding employment; and education about available benefits. In addition, the RCS provides certain services to family members of service members and veterans, including assistance to families who have lost a loved one as a result of their military service. RCS provides these services at its 300 full-fledged Vet Centers, 80 Mobile Vet Centers, 18 Outstations, and nearly 1,000 Community Access Points (CAPs) throughout the country.
Murphy has made empowering veterans and setting them up for success after they leave the military one of her top priorities in Congress. Last year, the core of her bill, the Battle for Servicemembers Act, was passed into law. This legislation reforms the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program and helps the nearly 250,000 servicemembers who leave the military every year to be better prepared to go to college, learn a trade, or start a small business.
The full text of the letter that Murphy sent to the VA can be found below:
Richard A. Stone, M.D.
Executive in Charge
Veterans Health Administration
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Dr. Stone:
I write to respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, through the Veterans Health Administration’s Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS), establish and operate a community-based facility in Seminole County, Florida, which is located in my congressional district and is home to over 22,000 military veterans.
As you know, the RCS provides critical services to active-duty servicemembers and veterans who have served in a combat zone or area of hostility; provided emergency medical care or mortuary services to casualties of war; or served on an unmanned aerial vehicle crew that provided direct support to operations in a combat zone or area of hostility. In addition, RCS provides certain services to family members of service members and veterans, including assistance to families who have lost a loved one as a result of his or her military service. The RCS services include individual and group counseling; health screenings and referrals; assistance finding employment; and education about available benefits.
The RCS operates 300 full-fledged Vet Centers, 80 Mobile Vet Centers, 18 Outstations, and nearly 1,000 Community Access Points (CAPs) throughout the country. However, while the RCS has established Vet Centers in neighboring Orange County (5575 S. Semoran Boulevard in Orlando), Lake County (in Clermont), and Volusia County (in Daytona Beach), veterans and their families in Seminole County cannot easily access any of these facilities. For example, it could take a veteran residing in the city of Sanford—Seminole County’s largest city—over 30 minutes to drive to the Orlando Vet Center, and over two hours if using public transportation.
I greatly appreciate the VA’s dedication to expanding RCS services to veterans in underserved communities. This was emphasized in the VA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget submission, where the VA cited “improv[ing] access to readjustment counseling in communities distant from existing Vet Center services” as one of its goals for 2018 to 2020. Establishing a Community Access Point or other community-based facilities in Seminole County would be a step in the right direction, and I stand ready to assist you and your team in any way I can to make this aspiration a reality.