U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson today announced plans for a new veterans center in Gainesville that will assist returning combat veterans with readjustment counseling and outreach services. It is expected to open in 2008.
"Our vet centers lead the world in helping combat veterans successfully readjust to life at home," Nicholson said. "It's an important service which combat veterans have earned. VA continues to expand into more communities with our vet centers to bring our services closer to the veterans who need them."
The center planned for Gainesville is one of 23 new vet centers planned in the next two years as part of a major program expansion across the country. These facilities are an important resource for veterans returning from war and their families.
Decisions on the exact location for the new Gainesville Vet Center are pending.
All vet centers are community-based. They provide counseling on mental health and employment, plus services on family issues, education, bereavement and outreach, to combat veterans and their families. They are staffed by small teams of counselors, outreach specialists and other specialists, many of whom are combat veterans themselves.
The vet center program was established by Congress in 1979 in recognition that a significant number of Vietnam veterans were still experiencing readjustment problems. Today, all veterans who served in combat are eligible for care at a VA vet center at no cost, as are their families for military-related issues. Also eligible are veterans who were sexually assaulted or harassed while on active duty and the families of service members who die on active duty.
Currently, VA maintains 209 vet centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
For more information, citizens can call Jim Lynch, Director of Alachua County Veterans Services, at (352) 264-6740.