More than 120 Veterans Affairs (VA) psychologists met to discuss ways to continue to improve mental health services for veterans amidst changes in health care and technology at the 10th annual Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Psychology Leadership Conference, "Changing Paradigms: Leadership and Clinical Applications," May 17-20 in Dallas.
APA President Sharon Stephens Brehm, PhD, and APA Executive Director for Practice Russ Newman, JD, PhD, each presented a keynote address. Brehm highlighted APA's advocacy on behalf of veterans, service members and their families, and how her presidential initiatives-integrated health care for the aging, institutional review boards, and math and science education-may enhance the work of VA psychologists, including their research and care of an aging veteran population. Newman reviewed a decade of VA psychology's advocacy successes, such as the dramatic rise in the number of VA psychologists over the last five years. He urged attendees to continue to build their "strategic resilience"-to anticipate and prepare for change-concerning the rapid evolution of health care and health-care technology.
In a videotaped address, the newly appointed Under Secretary for Veterans Affairs Michael J. Kussman, MD, lauded VA psychologists' work, especially in aiding troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Kussman, who had been slated to deliver opening remarks in person, was unable to attend because of his Senate confirmation process.
Ira Katz, MD, the deputy chief patient care services officer for mental health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, discussed VA efforts to increase veterans' access to mental health services, such as a new policy to evaluate veterans requesting or referred for services within 24 hours.
Also during the meeting, Brehm presented presidential citations to psychologists Kathleen M. McNamara, PhD, and Antonette M. Zeiss, PhD, for their dedication to veterans. Throughout her 30 years of service to psychology and APA governance, McNamara has kept veterans' issues at the association's fore, noted Brehm. McNamara is lead professional psychologist for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Honololu and has worked for the VA for 18 years.
Likewise, Zeiss, the deputy chief consultant of the VA's Office of Mental Health Services, has championed veterans' concerns in psychology throughout her 25-year career at the VA, said Brehm. The award also honors Zeiss's contributions to psychology practice as a pioneer of multidisciplinary models of health care through her VA work.
The annual meeting is co-sponsored by APA's Practice Directorate, the Association of VA Psychologist Leaders and APA's Div. 18 (Psychologists in Public Service).