Column – Vet Centers assist with transition after deployment, other services

Published 6:06 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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This month we are featuring the services of the Veterans Affairs Vet Centers, community-based counseling centers that provide social and psychological services. These include professional counseling to eligible veterans, service members, including National Guardsmen and reservists and families. 

Counseling also is offered to assist with a successful transition from military to civilian life or after a traumatic event experienced in the military. 

Many Vet Center counselors and outreach staff are veterans, experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief, anxiety, depression and transition after trauma.

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Because life isn’t always easy after a deployment, Vet Centers can help with confidential support to those eligible in a relaxed, non-medical setting at no cost. Services include counseling for depression (and anxiety), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the psychological effects of military sexual trauma (MST), among other psychological issues. They will, when needed, connect their clients with other sources of support within the Veterans Administration and community. 

You can find a Vet Center at These are local centers:

  • Chesapeake Vet Center, 1987 Military Hwy  Chesapeake, VA 23320, 757-722-9961.  This Vet Center is about 35 miles from the Smithfield area.
  • Norfolk Vet Center, 2200 Colonial Ave, Norfolk, VA  23517, 757-623-7584.  This Vet Center is about 48 miles from the Smithfield area.
  • Virginia Beach Vet Center, 324 Southport Cir, VA Beach, VA 23452, 757-248-3665.  This Vet Center is about 48 miles from the Smithfield area. 

Once you call a Vet Center, they will take your information and schedule an initial appointment. Those in crisis will be helped immediately.

Eligibility:  Veterans do not need to be registered with the VA, rated for a service-connected disability or receiving VA benefits. They should be prepared to provide discharge documents (a DD214), receipt of certain awards, deployment orders and other documents that show qualifying military service. The Vet Center will use these to establish eligibility. Family members can also receive counseling and services to help achieve growth and goals for a veteran or service member in their family. If the veteran or service member considers you family, so does the Vet Center.

Safety and privacy:  Vet Center records cannot be accessed by other VA offices, Department of Defense, military units, or community networks and providers without your permission, except to avert a life-threatening situation. Vet Centers provide a context in which clients can be open and comfortable. 

For more information see its website,

One upcoming event that we want to ensure all Vietnam Era veterans know about is the annual Vietnam Veterans Recognition Event scheduled to coincide with Nation Vietnam Veterans Day at the end of March.  

This year it will be hosted at the Smithfield American Legion at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 24 with dinner, entertainment and a guest speaker.  If you have attended in past years, you should receive an email invitation. One is not required, but an RSVP is.  

If you served during the Vietnam Conflict (not just those who served in theater but anyone in the military during that period) you are invited to attend this no cost event. Please call the American Legion at 757-357-9239, leave your full name, the number in your party plus a call back number to confirm your reservation.

As always your comments and suggestions for future content are welcome.  Email either one of us your thoughts: Thomas W. Mastaglio, American Legion Post 49,; or Laurie Clay, VFW Post 8545,

Laurie Clay is U.S. Army veteran who serves as department service officer at VFW Post 8545.