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A “Tripod of Caring” for America’s Veterans: Chaplaincy, Mental Health and Faith Communities

Leaders who care for the mental and emotional needs of Veterans and their families participated in a 2-day conference in January. A pilot program assisting combat Veterans has been launched with a focus on faith-based organizations working with Veterans and their families.

As the Director of VA’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP), I attended the Bridging Chaplaincy and Mental Health Care training conference held in San Diego, California, January 20 & 21, 2011.  The conference brought leaders together to discuss the key contributors to the physical and mental health of Veterans.  Sixty-seven individuals who care for the needs of our Veterans and their families participated in the conference.  The conference provided a rationale and framework for the integration of services provided by VA and the community, including faith communities.   

The crucial role faith communities and other non-profits play in the lives of our Veterans become increasing apparent the longer I serve as Director of the VA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  Our office looks for opportunities to bridge and connect the mission and goals of faith communities with the needs of our Veterans. 

Rev. Dr. Wanda Wainman, a local clergy leader in attendance, remarked:

“It is so important to have these kinds of forums which give us tools and a greater understanding…I was changed and moved in a profound way by what I experienced and stimulated to find how I can take this to the many faith and mental health communities in which I personally am involved is not something that is talked about nor even identified as a real need in our communities.”

To assist faith communities working with Veterans and their families, the VA’s “Families At Ease” pilot program has been launched.  This outreach program will assist recently returned combat Veterans who are reluctant to seek help, or who may be unaware that they need help.  A crucial aspect of “Families At Ease” is its reliance on faith communities. 

VA’s CFBNP invites faith and community organizations to join us to work collaboratively to care for our Veterans.  We can provide training at the local, state, regional and national level on how faith-based and community organizations can assist VA in meeting the needs of Veterans, their families and survivors.  We are Building a “Tripod of Caring” for America’s Veterans by bridging Chaplaincy, Mental Health Care and Faith Communities.  We invite you to join us.

If you have any questions or comments about this information, please email

Rev. E. Terri LaVelle is the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs