VA hiring more staff to handle growing needs in mental health

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - As our soldiers return home from war, the emotional scars of battle are far from over.

New efforts are underway to help meet the growing needs of returning veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs is adding 1,600 people to its mental health staff.

The VA says with each addition mental health care provider, a facility could potentially reach hundreds more veterans battling mental illnesses.

Even as servicemen and women return home, part of them will likely never leave the battlefield.

"So many guys who come back from Iraq are disturbed because of what went on over there," said Lynn Marler. Marler did not serve during war time, and he's thankful to not have dark memories of combat. However, many of his buddies do.

"There's more out there yet, and a lot more research I think needs to be done," said Marler.

Out of the 18,848 veterans served in Southeast Missouri and Northeast Arkansas, about 5,700 received some type of mental health service last year.

"That number seems to keep growing," said Matthew Geyer-Director of Mental Health Services-John J. Pershing VA Medical Center.

They come for many different reasons, but a number suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"Sometimes PTSD is evident when the person returns, and sometimes it takes years," said Geyer.

Many are veterans who have suffered in silence for decades.

"We have veterans from the Vietnam era who are just now presenting new symptoms of PTSD that they've had professional attention to," said Geyer.

Six new staff members are expected to be hired through the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff.

The staff members will not only help handle the extra work load, but look into cutting edge treatments and research when it comes to things like PTSD.

"We have to be able to meet the needs when they come in," said Geyer.

The new positions here at home, and nationwide are expected to be filled within six months.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, since 2007 there has been a 35 percent increase in the number of veterans receiving mental health services.

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