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Rural clergy to partner with VA to help veterans

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By ALEX HORTON
VAntage Point
When folks come back from war, it can seem that there aren’t many people that will understand the psychological impact of war and the process of reintegration. But veterans have increasingly turned to clergy members of all beliefs to help sort out the complex issues of life, death, and faith.
VA stood up free workshops for clergy members in rural areas to learn about services and benefits so they, as leaders of the community, can help veterans receive the help and care they need. It’s an effective model that has seen some success.
A quarter of Americans in need of mental-health services will seek help first from a minister, said Chaplain Jeni Cook, associate director of the VA’s National Chaplain Center. That may be especially true of military service members fearing a stigma or a career setback if they are known to be going to a psychiatrist.
“You’re the people out there who first see them when they’re hurting and looking for help,” Cook told about 100 area clergy members at a daylong conference at General Butler State Park in Carrollton this spring that was geared toward helping veterans in their communities.
With the flood of information out there on veterans benefits and resources, it’s important for local leaders to cut through the noise and help out vets one-on-one. For more information on dates and locations if you’d like to get involved, visit www.ruralhealth.va.gov/ruralclergytraining/.