http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel -- VA Is Nation's Largest Provider of Mental Health Services; Department a World Leader in Outreach, Research. WASHINGTON (March 12, 2007) -- As more newly returned combat veterans turn to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for health care, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson said the Department continues to enhance services that will provide them with world-class care, including mental health care. "Not all combat injuries are made by bullets and shrapnel," Nicholson said. "That's why we have taken -- and will continue to take -- steps to make certain our veterans receive comprehensive, accessible and compassionate care for their mental health concerns." With an annual budget of nearly $3 billion for mental health services, VA is the country's largest provider of mental health care. VA employs more than 9,000 front-line mental health professionals -- psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers -- up more than 15 percent from 2003. "VA's mental health programs are evidence-based and tailored to the needs of our patients," said Dr. Ira Katz, chief of VA's mental health program. "Maintaining mental health through the challenges of deployment, combat and reentry is a challenge facing many veterans -- a challenge that with persistence and VA's skillful professional assistance can be overcome." Mental health services are provided at each of VA's 155 medical centers and nearly 900 community-based outpatient clinics. Each medical center has a PTSD Clinical Team or a specialist that that focuses on treatment of PTSD. VA is a world leader in treatment and research concerning PTSD. The Department's National Center for PTSD is internationally recognized for its research into PTSD, other combat-related mental health issues and non-combat mental health trauma. A key component of VA's mental health program are the 209 community-based Vet Centers that provide veterans with PTSD counseling and mental health screening, along with help for family members dealing with bereavement and loved ones with PTSD. At the Vet Centers, VA has hired 100 veterans of the Global War on Terror to provide outreach to other newly returned veterans. An important mission of the outreach effort is maintaining contact with local National Guard and reserve units. Nicholson also recently announced that VA will open 23 more Vet Centers within the next two years.