The Veterans Health Administration has been serving veterans for 75 years. Today, the VHA provides healthcare and support to nine million veterans every year. Unfortunately, there are thousands of vets across the country who struggle with homelessness and mental health issues that prevent them from seeking the care they desperately need. One of the VHA’s latest programs, VMET, aims to help not only the veterans who seek support, but also those who can’t.
The VMET pilot program, or Veteran Mental Evaluations Teams, was designed by fellow vets who understand the unique needs of veterans in crises. People living with post traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and other conditions that impact their mental wellness are at elevated risk for developing substance addictions. For some, this leads to housing issues or run-ins with the law.
The VMET program pairs Shannon Teague, a licensed VMET social worker, with Cpl Tyrone “T-Bone” Anderson, a police officer who recently retired from the Long Beach Police Department. Both of them are Marine Corps veterans. They work in tandem to reconnect with veterans who have slipped through the cracks in the system.
The melding of the clinical world and the police world bridges a significant divide. When the pair receives a call from a local police department or hospital about a veteran in crisis, they take action. First, Teague reviews their mental health history while T-Bone reviews any past criminal record; for safety, and to better understand how the person in crisis may feel about past encounters with law enforcement.
Then, they reach out to the veteran personally. They’re not always an instant hit, but with a little patience and understanding they’re able to make a huge difference. So far, they’ve answered over 2,500 calls for service, including that of Marine veteran Larry Nelson. When he met Teague and T-Bone, he was struggling with homelessness. Watch the video below to learn more about the VMET program and see how far Larry has come with their help.
Veterans helping veterans makes all the difference. The Veterans Mental Evaluations Team program may soon be helping vets across the entire nation. For more info, visit www.va.gov.