In 2014, AAMFT continued to make progress in obtaining MFT jobs and paid clinical internships at the federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA agreed to fund 45 paid positions for MFT clinical interns over the next 5 years, starting in Fall 2015. This is a major win because: 1) two-thirds of all VA clinicians started as VA clinical interns, 2) previously no MFT clinical interns were paid, and 3) many MFT academic programs report difficulties in obtaining the clinical internships required for MFT licensure.
VA also continued to post jobs of licensed MFTs, although the numbers of postings are still many fewer than for Social Workers. In 2015, AAMFT expects the number of MFTs at VA to rise substantially as a result of enactment of $5 billion in added VA spending to hire additional behavioral and other clinicians. These new MFT hires at VA bring the total new MFT jobs at VA and the Department of Defense to about 375 over the past 5 years.
Another big 2014 win was doubling the number of our federally-funded Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) MFT graduate students from 25 to 50. This increase resulted from Congressional enactment of the President’s Now Is The Time initiative, which opens the MFP Program to Masters as well as Doctoral students. AAMFT now receives $1.4 million annually for this program, which increases the number of MFT clinicians and researchers pursuing careers focused on serving communities of Color.
This added VA and MFP funding came despite bitter disputes between Democratic and Republican elected officials over federal spending and the $18,000,000,000 Federal Debt. Although we made progress in 2014, behavioral healthcare is not immune from federal spending cuts, such as via the “sequestration” in late 2013, when MFTs (and other clinicians) at the Department of Defense were furloughed without pay for 16 days (Congress eventually awarded pay retroactively to these clinicians).
Medicare coverage of private-practice MFTs also was lifted in 2013 by the introduction (for the first time since 2010) of a standalone House bill with a majority (Republican) chief sponsor. The the Mental Health Access Improvement Act
was introduced by Congressman Gibson (R-NY) and Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) as well as 23 additional cosponsors. But Congress has not taken up Medicare reform since 2010, and did not do so last year.