Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, have requested an update from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on the efforts to create the occupational series for licensed professional mental health counselors (LPMHCs) and marriage and family therapists (MFTs) in the VA.
The occupational series was to be completed within one year following the passage of the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 that was signed into law in October of 2020. This legislation required the VA to consult with the OPM to create an occupational series for mental health counselors and to compile a staffing plan for mental health counselors and document any barriers that exist to hiring them.
In a November 2021 VA briefing, VA and OPM agreed to establish an Integrated Project Team (IPT) to meet the legislative requirements of creating the occupational series for LPMHCs and MFTs, but no timeline was provided, and no progress has been reported.
Sens. Tester and Moran have requested an update on the status of the IPT and stressed the importance of the occupational series to increase the hiring of mental health professionals to deliver critical mental health care to veterans. Both senators have worked on this issue for many years and were the authors of the provision requiring the creation of an occupational series in the Hannon Act. This letter is the latest effort from their staff to ensure that the legislation is implemented accordingly.