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New numbers from the Department of Veterans Affairs reveal a lack of mental health specialists in hospitals for veterans, with the data showing 20 percent vacancy rates in many of the VA hospitals across the country.

As USA Today reports, the VA’s data shows that this shortfall of mental health services is occurring “at a time when the number of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder is increasing by about 10,000 every three months, what experts say is the cumulative effect of a decade of war.”

“Last year, VA testified that it has the resources to handle the influx of veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Now we learn from them there is a shortage. …VA needs to quickly figure out what the problem is.”

A USA Today analysis from last year reported that veterans who start therapy at nearly a third of VA hospitals wait longer than the department’s goal of patients being seen in 14 days or less. According to an internal report, the department needed to hire 266 psychiatrists as of last September and it was taking approximately eight months to fill each job.

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Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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