PLAINS TOWNSHIP -- Dozens of new mental health experts have been hired to see veterans in our area. It's all part of an executive order from President Obama last year that told the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire 1,600 new clinical health professionals nationwide.
This is an effort to help soldiers coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq.
The federal funding was made available and now there are 31 new mental health experts and eight more support staff working at the VA Hospital near Wilkes-Barre.
Most of the new social workers, clinical nurseries and LPNs are working full time at the main hospital near Wilkes-Barre, but some of the new staff are also at outpatient clinics in Williamsport, Tobyhanna, and Sayre and Allentown.
The additional staff will see and treat all veterans but doctors in Wilkes-Barre say they're diagnosing a growing number of soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental issues from combat.
With the extra help, the VA Hospital in Luzerne County has extended evening hours and they plan to offer more outpatient care on Saturdays this summer.
"They've made a tremendous sacrifice in commitment to serve our country and this is our commitment to help them as they cope with the injuries and the emotional trauma of what they experienced during their service," said Dr. Timothy Lomauro, VA Psychological Services.
Doctors say they really need the extra help. More than 40,000 veterans were treated this past year at the VA Hospital and those outpatient clinics.