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updated 4/19/2012 10:14:21 AM ET 2012-04-19T14:14:21

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday it was increasing its staff of mental health professionals by roughly 1,900 to better serve veterans returning home from war.

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The department plans to add about 1,600 clinicians, including psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses, and about 300 support staff to an existing mental health staff of roughly 29,500.

"As the tide of war recedes, we have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to anticipate the needs of returning Veterans," VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement. "History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended. As more Veterans return home, we must ensure that all Veterans have access to quality mental health care."

The department said it will begin recruiting immediately.

Since 2007, the VA has experienced a 35 percent increase in the number of veterans receiving mental health services. The VA says 1.3 million veterans received specialty health services last year.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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