June 1st, 2013

Global VA licensure beneficial for psychologists

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the average American moves approximately 14 times in a lifetime. Organizational transfers, new job opportunities and a search for a more suitable climate rank as the top reasons for relocation. Psychologists considering leaving their current state for a different one face the issue of licensure. Because every state has its own specific requirements, psychologists may be forced to reapply for licensure in the new location, possibly involving considerable paperwork, effort and additional cash investment. An option that psychologists might want to consider is employment in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which offers its psychologists the opportunity to work nation-wide with one state license.

Mary Schohn, director of mental health operations out of the VA Central Office, confirms that having one state license allows a psychologist to practice in any VA facility. “This applies to all VA facilities across the country,” she says, noting that the VA has always had this policy in place. Not only does the VA offer many opportunities for advancement, but the flexibility to move from one state to another also fosters professional growth, according to Schohn.

Providers who work in private or group practice and, for one reason or another, have an opportunity to move to another state must apply for a license in the new location. “This discourages movement,” says Schohn. “With the VA, you can readily relocate without getting a new license.”

Schohn points out that the psychologist must possess the right training and have a demonstrated expertise in a specific area when applying for a job at any VA facility in order to be hired.

The VA has been known to frequently hire newly licensed clinicians. “We hire people when they’ve finished their training when they don’t know where they want to be in 10 years,” Schohn says, noting that in most cases, these individuals remain in the VA system.

Michael Culpepper, chief officer for Workforce Management and Consulting for the VHA, adds, “[Having one state license] makes it easier to deploy trained clinical professionals and serves as a big draw in our marketing and recruiting campaign. Psychologists basically have a portable license.”

Since March 2012, a combined total of 48 psychologists and psychiatrists have shifted from one facility to another, according to Schohn. The VA is currently undergoing a recruiting campaign to hire more psychologists and psychiatrists and showcases the licensure benefit as part of its marketing strategy.

According to Deborah Baker in the legal and regulatory affairs department at the American Psychological Association, the general policy for health providers working in federal agencies/federal settings is that they must be licensed in good standing. “State health care licensure laws typically have an exemption for federally employed providers who work in federal settings. So a provider need not necessarily be licensed in the jurisdiction where the federal agency or facility is located so long as he/she maintains an active state license in good standing and is practicing only in the federal setting,” she says.

By Phyllis Hanlon

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