VA launched a pilot program designed to support recruiting psychiatrists to work at VA and increase Veterans’ access to mental health care by repaying educational loans for qualifying psychiatrists. The Program for the Repayment of Educational Loans (PREL) will benefit certain psychiatrists who agree to a two year period of obligated service with VA, by providing up to $30,000 per each year of obligated service in tuition repayment. Beneficiaries must agree to maintain an acceptable level of performance defined by supervisory review in the position.
To be considered eligible, applicants must be enrolled in their final year of a post-graduate physician residency program leading to either a specialty qualification in psychiatric medicine or a sub-specialty qualification of psychiatry; their program must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or the American Osteopathic Association. Psychiatrists are not eligible if they are already participating in another federal government education loan repayment program. The application process will open in the spring. A complete application for the PREL consists of a completed application form, letters of reference and personal statement.
The program will also assist VA in its recruiting efforts in areas of the country where it is more difficult to recruit. Beneficiaries will relocate, if required, to a location determined by VA at the participants expense in exchange for educational loan repayment.
“PREL will enable VA to place highly qualified mental health professionals in locations where they are most needed,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin.
In fiscal year 2015, more than 1.6 million Veterans received mental health treatment from VA, including at over 150 medical centers, 820 community-based outpatient clinics and 300 Vet Centers that provide readjustment counseling. Veterans also enter VA health care through the Veterans Crisis Line, VA staff on college and university campuses or other outreach points. This represents a 66 percent increase in Veterans receiving mental health treatment since fiscal year 2006. From the beginning of fiscal year 2015 to the end of February 2016, VA hired 112 psychiatrists in newly created positions.
PREL was established by the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act enacted Feb.12, 2015. The final rule on creation of the pilot program was published by the Federal Register today and can be found here.