Commentary: Gap in veterans services finally gets closed

The Department of Veterans Affairs established the Vet Center program in 1979, when it became clear that, four years after the official end of the Vietnam War, many vets were still having serious problems adjusting to postwar careers and family life. In 1991, with the Persian Gulf War, Vet Center services were extended to all veterans who had served or were serving in combat zones.

Vet Centers provide individual and group counseling, family counseling, medical referrals, bereavement counseling and services related to all the different kinds of help and outreach military people need after coming home from doing their country's most demanding and stressful job. Services are available not only to veterans themselves, but also to spouses and families.

There are currently 232 Vet Centers scattered across the country, as well as in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Five are in Georgia — Atlanta, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Macon and Savannah. Three are in Alabama — Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery.

There is not a Vet Center in Columbus, site of one of the most important and prominent military installations in the world — not to mention the first American soil on which countless returning veterans set foot, and a place many have decided to call home.

That is about to change, and soon. Georgia's two U.S. senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, announced last week that the VA will open new Vet Centers in Columbus and Richmond County (Augusta) before the end of next year.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.