The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will establish a Vet Center Scholarship Program to assist individuals pursuing graduate degrees in psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy, or mental health counseling.
The scholarship program was created as part of the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 also known as the Hannon Act.
The Hannon Act was named in honor of retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. John Scott Hannon, who served his country for 23 years as a leader of SEAL Team Two, a member of SEAL Team Six, and Special Operations and policy staff officer at U.S. Special Operations Command. Hannon died by suicide on Feb. 25, 2018, six years after retiring from the Navy.
The scholarship provides funding for up to two years of graduate studies for individuals pursuing these degrees. Following the completion of their degree, these mental health professionals will then serve full time for a period of six years at one of VA’s 300 Vet Centers across the country. Specifically, they will work in underserved areas that need additional mental health professionals and in states with a per-capita population of more than 5% veterans. VA expects to award scholarships in the summer of 2023.
“In 300 communities across the country, Vet Centers provide veterans, servicemembers and their families with quick and easy access to the mental health care they need and deserve,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “These scholarships will help VA ensure all veterans and servicemembers — including those in historically underserved areas — have access to Vet Centers with highly qualified, trained and compassionate staff.”
The legislation was championed by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
“Vet Centers play a critical role in delivering quality mental health services and support to veterans, servicemembers and their families — especially in rural states like Montana,” said Tester. “That’s why I’m proud to have worked to deliver this scholarship program that will strengthen our mental health workforce, and in turn help Vet Centers hire qualified talent to keep providing mental health counseling to those in need.”