Newswise — WASHINGTON - The American Psychological Association has called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to exempt all health care provider positions, including those of doctoral psychology interns, from the hiring freeze implemented this week by President Trump.

In a letter to Robert Snyder, acting secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, APA noted that the VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country.

“APA appreciates the VA’s historical and expanded investments in the training of our future psychology workforce,” said the letter, dated Jan. 26 and signed by APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD, and Interim CEO Cynthia D. Belar, PhD. “[We] encourage you and the VA to exempt all those who provide health care, including doctoral psychology interns providing mental health care, as frontline caregivers to millions of veterans across this country.”

Snyder responded today that “we are considering the APA’s request as we prepare the guidance to send to our administrations to implement the President’s directive.”

Graduate students are currently applying for 600 pre-doctoral psychology internship positions within the VA, according to APA’s letter. “Internships are the capstone training requirement for licensure for doctoral candidates in health service psychology,” the letter said. “Without clear and explicit guidance from the VA on the exemption status of health care professions training programs from the VA, these positions and the students’ careers may be derailed.”

Critical shortages of psychologists and other health professionals are affecting the health care of veterans and restricting access to care at a time when demand for services far exceeds the ability of the VA to meet their health care needs, the APA officials said. The selection process for the first round of psychology doctoral internships begins Feb. 1.

“We are gratified that Acting Secretary Snyder responded so quickly to our request,” Puente said. “Psychology interns, working under supervision, provide critical, evidence-based care to our veterans, many of whom are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries or substance use disorders. With 20 veterans committing suicide each day, it would be tragic to create unnecessary barriers and further delay their access to mental health care.”

In addition to its outreach to the VA, APA is also advocating for exemptions from the hiring freeze for health care providers and trainees at the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Indian Health Service. ________________________________________ The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives. ________________________________________

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