In 1979, Congress recognized that an overwhelming number of Vietnam veterans were having trouble re-adjusting to civilian life and were experiencing psychological and social distress. They also realized traditional VA services weren’t the solution to the problem and created the Vet Center program.
“Vet Centers help veterans and their family members make a satisfying post war readjustment to civilian life through a broad and successful range of counseling, outreach and referrals,” according to one of its pamphlets.
Another unique aspect of the Vet Center versus traditional VA hospitals is that it is open to combat vets and their families. Vet Center services are absolutely free. Some of the services they provide are:
• Individual readjustment counseling
• Group readjustment counseling
• Referral for benefits assistance
• Liaison with community agencies
• Marital and family counseling
• Substance abuse information and referral
• Community education
• Job counseling and referral
• Bereavement counseling
The closest Vet Center to Jasper County is in Des Monies, but Jasper County Veterans Affairs Director Chris Chartier is attempting to remedy that.
“The Vet Center program based in Des Moines has offered to extend their services locally here in Jasper County,” Chartier wrote in a release. “This is a wonderful opportunity for combat veterans and their families to receive completely cost free counseling … for any and all issues that may be affecting their lives after returning from a combat environment, without having to travel to Des Moines.”
Although the centers were created originally for Vietnam vets, Congress eventually expanded it to all combat veterans in separate legislation in 1996 and in 2003. Chartier, who is an Afghanistan veteran himself, understands the importance of the services the centers provide for both the veterans and their families.
“Although many people acknowledge the effect combat can have on a veteran, the direct impact it has on their families is something that can be easily overlooked,” Chartier wrote. “Whether it is the spouse or child of a veteran, or even the parents and grandparents of some of our younger returning veterans, the transition home can be cumbersome.”
With the “Wall that Heals” a 250-foot long replica of the Vietnam Wall coming to Newton today, Chartier’s efforts to get Vet Center services in Jasper County could not be more timely.
“This week, Vet Center personnel will be available at Maytag Park for questions regarding their services,” Chartier wrote.
Chartier and Vet Center representatives will also hold an informational meeting on May 8 at the American Legion to gauge interest and provide additional information.
“If you or someone you know could benefit from these service, or would just like to know more about bringing the program here to Newton, I encourage you to contact either my office at (641) 792-7993, or contact the Vet Center directly at (515) 284-4929,” Chartier wrote.
In 2011, the Vet Center projected that they would have 300 centers all over the United States including the U.S. territories of Guam, America Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Vet Center also states that more than 60 percent of their staff members are military veterans and that they often team up with other community agencies to make sure they meet all service needs for vets and their families.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.