VA Employment as a Social Worker
Social workers are important providers of services to service members, veterans, and their families. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest employer of Master’s level social workers in the United States. Social Workers have worked in the VA since 1926.
There are very few areas within the system where social workers do not play a pivotal role. Whether interested in micro or macro practice, social workers have many options within the VA.
VA social workers offer a variety of services, including resource navigation, crisis intervention, advocacy, benefit assistance, behavioral health therapies for depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance use dependence, and homelessness (just to name a few). Social workers also ensure continuity of care through the admission, evaluation, treatment, and follow-up processes, and they provide assessment, crisis intervention, high-risk management, advocacy, and education throughout the continuum of care.
Social workers are an integral part of health care. In this VA's large and complex system, social workers are often the thread that pulls a treatment plan together and the one leading linkage and referral processes with community partners and engaging with Veterans’ groups and organizations on efforts to strengthen services. Social workers’ contributions with these efforts are valued, acknowledged, and necessary.
Today, social workers offer a variety of services to veterans and their families, including:
- acute medical and psychiatric units
- rehabilitation units
- psychosocial residential rehabilitation treatment programs
- community living centers
- resource navigation
- crisis intervention
- benefit assistance
- mental health therapy for conditions such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- drug and alcohol addiction
Social workers are key members of the multidisciplinary treatment teams; duties range from:
- assessment, crisis intervention, family education and discharge planning.
- ensuring veterans return to a safe, supportive environment with the proper services in place to enable the veteran and his/her families to function at the highest level possible.
Social workers in other programs assist veterans with:
- readjustment in the community by partnering with residential care homes, homeless shelters and transitional housing sites, community nursing homes, adult day cares, and home care agencies.
- while others provide intensive outpatient case management to veterans living with severe mental illness.
Clinical social workers provide evidence-based therapies such as:
- cognitive processing and prolonged exposure therapies in post-traumatic stress disorder clinics,
substance abuse treatment programs, and mental health clinics.
Social workers also manage programs for:
- spinal cord injuries and disease
- visual impairments
- polytrauma rehabilitation
- palliative care
- therapeutic and supportive employment
- suicide prevention
- veterans justice outreach
- recovery implementation
- medical and residential foster homes
- and many more.
Social workers also coordinate many programs within the VA system. Social work was leading the charge in developing a program for returning combat veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. The Caregiver Support Program emerged in 2011 with many VA medical centers throughout the nation looking to social workers to coordinate this effort. Eligible caregivers of post-9/11 injured veterans can receive a stipend, which can help ease the financial burden of caring for their loved one.Leadership Roles:
Social workers are service chiefs in mental health, geriatrics and extended care, veteran-centered care, and voluntary services. These social workers ensure that comprehensive services are in place for thousands of veterans within each facilities’ catchment area, and they are responsible for policies, procedures, and accreditation. We are health systems specialists, assisting medical center leadership with planning for future needs, public relations, developing new programs, and community planning. Social workers are associate directors and directors of medical centers, with the responsibility of seeing that the necessary services are available for veterans and families while remaining fiscally responsible. Social workers have also been in top leadership positions at the VA Central Office, speaking at congressional hearings on the many challenges facing the multiple generations of veterans today.Serving Veterans & Military Families:
There are many opportunities available to professional social workers interested in serving veterans and military families. Regardless of practice area, chances are that nearly all social workers will serve this population in some capacity whether through mental and behavioral health therapy, social services, housing, health care, care coordination, or a variety of other services. We are in small clinics in rural communities as well as in large medical centers in metropolitan areas.
VA offers social workers a world of opportunities that aren’t available in other organizations. VA social workers help Veterans.
Interested social workers can find additional information about VA careers and apply for jobs online at https://www.vacareers.va.gov/index.asp.
- Select, "Social Worker," from the category drop down box.
- 10 tips for landing a Social Work job with VA, Part 1 *
- 10 tips for landing a Social Work job with VA, Part 2 *
- USA Jobs - https://www.usajobs.gov/
- Performance Based Interviewing - https://www.va.gov/pbi/
- Twitter: #WorkAtVA: Follow the hashtag to learn about VA careers
*DISCLAIMER: The contents are not intended to guarantee employment with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Rather, the content is written to generate thoughts and ideas for applicants to consider when applying for employment at VA.