Let me wish all of you a happy, prosperous, healthy and peaceful new year. The staff and I enjoyed a few days off at the end of the month, but rest assured that we have returned to the office with a renewed vigor in hopes of doing even more to make the American Counseling Association the resource on which you can depend.
As you have seen on page one of this issue, our multiyear effort to have the federal government recognize the skill, experience and training of licensed professional counselors took another giant step forward when the U.S. Congress approved a bill last month that will result in many more opportunities for professional counselors who provide services to our nation’s veterans.
Literally completed at the 11th hour prior to the adjournment of the 109th Congress, the Senate agreed to a bill that will allow licensed mental health counselors to fill jobs for which they were previously restricted from applying within the Department of Veterans Affairs. This means professional counselors will be able to seek supervisory positions as well as other jobs that are at a much higher grade level than they could previously.
While I acknowledge the guidance of the current volunteer leadership and the work of our public policy staff, I would be remiss if I did not express appreciation for prior ACA leadership teams and government relations personnel who helped move us forward to this important legislative victory. Similar to our work on the elementary school counseling demonstration program, this effort took a number of years to reach fruition.
In past columns, I have indicated that ACA wants to provide our members with resources, services and advocacy that will result in making you a better professional counselor and, I hope, improve your career opportunities. I believe passage of the VA legislation is yet one more step in meeting the commitment we’ve made to you and your colleagues.
Understand that the public policy process will still need to be followed in regard to this issue to ensure that the positions and opportunities made possible with this legislation will be realized. The regulatory process is next, followed by actual implementation. You have my commitment that the ACA staff and I will continue to do what we can to expedite this process and provide the information necessary for the federal government to move as quickly as possible.
Let me also say that in regard to legislation affecting licensed professional counselors, we still need to stay focused on issues such as TRICARE (the federal health program for the military), Medicare and enactment of licensure in both California and Nevada (see related story on page 16).
While we are paying close attention to the mental health issues listed above, we will also continue to be actively engaged in other issues that affect professional counselors who work in the areas of school, career and rehabilitation. This is a tall order for a department of four staff and a committee of 12. Quite frankly, if we are to have continued success, we need your voice and your commitment as well. Please consider signing up for the Government Relations listserv by visiting www.counseling.org/publicpolicy and clicking on the box with those words. Stay in touch with what is going on and how you can play a role in our important legislative efforts!
I also wanted to let you know of the passing of two very dedicated ACA former employees. Mr. Arnold Van Meter Jr. served as our director of personnel for a number of years and had retired to Florida awhile back. As the staff continued to grow given the projects and programs we undertook, “Van” was instrumental in his personnel role.
Ms. Lois Howell was an administrative assistant to the ACA executive director and other senior managers before her retirement in the early 1990s. Lois was someone who could be counted on as a consummate administrative assistant. Her organization and knowledge of punctuation were skills for which I was always very appreciative.
Both these individuals will be missed. We are grateful for the service they provided to ACA.
As always, I hope you will contact me with any comments, questions or suggestions that you might have. Please contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800.347.6647 ext. 231.
Thanks and be well.