BY TAMMY WALTERS
Oneida County Veterans Service Officer
The Vet Center program was established by Congress in 1979 because of the realization a significant number of Vietnam-era veterans were still experiencing readjustment problems. Over time, Congress extended eligibility to encompass other war-era veterans but maintained the premise they must be combat veterans. Recent legislative changes now authorize Vet Centers to provide readjustment counseling services not only to certain active duty service members but their families as well. Active duty service members who are eligible to use Vet Center services are members of the Armed Forces, including National Guard and Reserve who:
• Served on active duty in a theater of combat operations, or
• Served in an area at a time during which hostilities occurred in that area, or
• Remotely controlled an unmanned aerial vehicle engaged in combat with an enemy of the U.S. or against an opposing military force in a theater of combat operations, or
• Provided direct emergency medical or mental health care or mortuary services to the casualties of combat operations or hostilities within or outside the theater of combat operations or area of hostilities.
Family members of these veterans who are eligible for services include the spouse, child, step family member and extended family members who live with the service member. Family services are provided when it’s determined it will aid in the readjustment of the service member. Vet Centers also provide counseling to service men and women who experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and/or sexual harassment. Additionally, they provide bereavement counseling to parents, spouses, and children of service members who die while serving their country.
Vet Center records are not kept with other VA health care records so if a veteran wants to obtain them to file a service-connected disability claim or for any other reason, they must submit a Release of Information directly to the Vet Center. Because these records are kept separately, many veterans find this the best source for counseling. People who serve the public such as teachers, law enforcement officers, business owners, etc., might not want anyone knowing they’re receiving counseling and a Vet Center is a great option for that. In addition, people still serving in the military may feel more comfortable using the Vet Center. Lastly, this is a great option for families who need counseling but are unable to get it through the VA health care system.
The closest Vet Center to Rhinelander is located at 605 S. 24th Ave., Wausau; however, a counselor comes to Rhinelander three times per month due to the overwhelming need in our area. We provide him with a quiet, private office in the courthouse near ours where he can provide counseling to veterans and/or their families. If you would like to meet with him, call the Wausau Vet Center to set up an appointment and tell them you’d like to receive counseling in Rhinelander. Their phone number is 715-842-1724.
Note: We will be out of the office Sept. 18-22 for our fall conference. We will have a Limited Term Employee (LTE) in the office but the office hours will be limited as will the services she’ll be able to provide.
Tammy Walters can be reached at (715) 369-6127 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Jason Dailey, Assistant CVSO, can be reached at the same number or email@example.com.