Department of Veterans Affairs Vet Centers
When America experienced the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, TAPS was there in the Pentagon Family Assistance Center providing comfort and support for all those who lost loved ones on that fateful day. Hundreds of TAPS Peer Mentors volunteered their time over the course of six weeks, traveling to Washington, DC for a week, living in the Center's headquarters hotel, and offering comfort to those newly grieving the loss of their loved one.
Following this tremendously successful support effort, TAPS Founder Bonnie Carroll was contacted by the White House and appointed White House Liaison to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Over the course of 18 months, Bonnie had the chance to work closely with various VA agencies to implement programs that would benefit surviving families and strengthen the VA's commitment “…to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”
Among the programs that were expanded and strengthened was the VA's Readjustment Counseling Service's (RCS) Vet Center Program. For decades, this agency had conducted veteran peer based counseling and care for veterans in need of support and their families. Dr. Al Batres, Director of the RCS, drafted a policy change and requested that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs approve expanded eligibility to grief counseling that would include all family members. Secretary Anthony Principi saw the need for this care and recognized the capability of the VA to provide these services, signing the policy change in August 2003. Since that time, all family members have had access to unlimited bereavement counseling, free of charge.
As one TAPS survivor said, “What a great gift to be able to talk about your feelings with a professional and learn coping strategies for the new emotions that pop up after a traumatic death. This is where the courage comes in. It is important to seek help when you are experiencing emotions that are sometimes confusing and overwhelming. If you feel you need help, seek the help of a counselor. Don’t stay in that dark place for long. Seek the light of those who understand. By taking any of these small steps, you are demonstrating courage. And that courage is the lifeblood of healing.”
What is Bereavement Counseling?
Bereavement counseling is assistance and support to people with emotional and psychological stress after the death of a loved one. Bereavement counseling includes a broad range of transition services, including outreach, counseling, and referral services to family members.
Does VA Have Bereavement Counseling for Surviving Family Members?
The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers bereavement counseling to parents, spouses and children of Armed Forces personnel who died in the service of their country. Also eligible are family members of reservists and National Guardsmen who die while on duty.
Where Is Counseling Offered?
VA's bereavement counseling is provided at community-based Vet Centers located near the families. There is no cost for VA bereavement counseling.
How Can You Obtain These Services?
For more information on how you and your family may obtain counseling from the Department of Veterans Affairs, please call TAPS at 800-959-TAPS (8277).