What Do Social Workers Do at the VA?

The Veterans Administration is the largest employer and trainer of master’s -level social workers in the nation, but what do the professionals do for the agency? The answer is that VA social workers are employed in the same areas general social workers are found and in some particular to the military. They work in clinics, in mental health centers, in hospitals and on military bases to provide services to veterans.

Veterans Needs Different

Though many of the needs these social workers address are common to all members of society, some are the result of the challenges veterans have faced. After WWI and WWII, veterans returned home and were expected to reenter civilian life seamlessly. There were parades in the streets, welcome home ceremonies and then the veterans simply melted into the culture. Melting in was hard. Mental health issues like depression carried a stigma, and veterans just “dealt with their problems.” The result was depression, alcohol and substance abuse, homelessness, marital problems, physical illness and other issues.

Today, professionals dealing with veterans realize that PTSD from combat can cause a multitude of other issues for returning military personnel. According to Live Science, exposure to chemicals used in warfare can cause long-term heart damage. Veterans also suffer at a greater rate than the general population from infectious diseases for which there are no vaccines. Hearing loss and traumatic brain injury are two other conditions faced by veterans. Besides military-related issues, these people deal with issues other people face like aging, loss and chronic disease. The Veterans Administration has created programs to address the needs of the returning and veteran military.

How Social Workers Help

According to the Veterans Administration, Social workers in the VA help veterans with financial and housing assistance. This is part of the greater task of assisting them in navigating the VA system. They assess the needs of their clients and help them ferret out resources to meet those needs. VA social workers respond to crisis situations and help provide emergency services, then they work to achieve long-term interventions for the clients. They work with veterans and their families to deal with the consequences of chronic and terminal illnesses. Clinical social workers can counsel clients in mental health issues like depression and marital difficulties. Social workers also do case management to help veterans solve problems such as homelessness and addiction.

Some workers do not work with individual clients, but in risk assessment, studying patterns in veterans’ lives to determine which people are likely to develop a certain issue. They also advocate for better performance in VA programs and resources.

Working for the VA

There is a difference in the clients VA social workers serve, but is there is difference in working for the Veterans Administration than for a community social service agency or hospital? For one thing, these social workers have access to many resources like the Veterans’ Justice Outreach and the innovative Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program. Another difference is that because of the size of the administration, social workers are usually able to locate where they want to work. Government employment generally involves good benefits and high pay. In fact, master’s level entry positions begin at the GS-9 salary.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees

Social work is a profession most people enter because of their desire to help others. Society is realizing that veterans face many issues the general population doesn’t face, and they face common issues with greater frequency. That is why the government is investing in building and improving veterans’ resources. Working for the Veterans Administration can be a rewarding career for social workers.