Chaplain Dr. Juliana Lesher, current National Director of VA Chaplain Services, shared exciting recent developments in VA Chaplaincy during our gathering of religious endorsers, (Association of Religious Endorsing Bodies or AREB). The following points from her presentation will be of value for those considering VA Chaplaincy as vocation.
Before turning to those developments, please note two points underpinning this presentation for our OCA Chaplain community. First of all, VA Chaplaincy falls under the purview of our Military Chaplain Endorsing Office, led by Archpriest Theodore Boback. As many ask questions about VA Chaplaincy, however, this presentation is posted here for those who may be interested.
Dr. Lesher shared several dimensions of change in VA chaplaincy as related to the Title 38-Hybrid. First of all, the Chaplaincy Center in Hampton, VA, has closed, and chaplaincy services are now headquartered in Washington, D.C.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently approved for the first time a coding system for VA Chaplaincy. With this change, the VA System, through Hybrid-38, transitioned chaplains from an administrative or support staff function more typical reflecting chaplain roles in hospitals, to a clinical service, complete with clinical budget.
Due to this incredible change, now reflecting chaplaincy as full interdisciplinary treatment team partners contributing to electronic charting, the VA Chaplaincy now requires chaplains to have completed 4 units of CPE and board certification (as chaplaincy does not currently have licensure, required of other disciplines). A related change is that the national VA Chaplain Office no longer facilitates hiring of chaplains, and positions are no longer posted on USAJOBS. Local hospital HR departments are now responsible for hiring chaplains, through two possible pathways.
Dr. Lescher shared that with these changes, there are now two pathways for entering into VA Chaplaincy for those interested in doing so. The first is to apply for and complete a residency CPE program at a VA hospital. Meaningful engagement by interdisciplinary team members with resident chaplains in the course of patient care may eventually lead to open positions being offered to identified program participants.
A second pathway for those who have been engaged in chaplaincy ministry, is to complete a fellowship program in the VA system. While in a fellowship, similar interactions may lead to open positions being offered to fellowship participants.
Dr. Lesher shared her contact information for those desiring more information. First, here is the link for VA Chaplaincy: https://www.patientcare.va.gov/chaplain/index.asp . For follow-up with Dr. Lesher, she may be reached at Juliana.Lesher@va.gov or by phone at 202.550.9351.