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VHA Social Work

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What VA social workers do?  

VA social workers provide a wide range of clinical interventions to meet the diverse needs of Veterans ranging from crisis interventions to long-term clinical interventions.

Whether arranging service member benefit payments, connecting homeless Veterans with housing resources, or counseling Veterans with injuries or trauma, VA social workers impact millions of Veterans’ lives. Practicing in every medical and Veteran center operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), their reach is exceptional. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the VA’s health care program, is the largest integrated health care network in the country.

Social work supporting veterans

VA social workers support clients with a wide range of services. Veterans’ diverse needs range from help with administrative functions to long-term clinical interventions.

Here are just some of the ways that VA social workers can help:

  • Assistance with access to care.
  • Education and assistance with financial or housing resources.
  • Linkage to resources from VA or community agencies.
  • Education and application for benefits from the VA, Social Security and other government and community programs.
  • Assessment and implementation of treatment approaches which address needs related to social determinants of health.
  • Facilitate Veteran communication with interprofessional healthcare teams on goals of care discussions and advanced care planning.
  • Education and linkage to resources offering support for caregivers.
  • Provision of case management.
  • Provision of counseling and other evidence based therapeutic interventions.

Social workers meeting needs of Veterans, their families and caregivers

The first step is generally for the social worker to meet with the Veteran and their support person, if applicable the social worker will gather information from the Veteran about their health, living situation, family and other support systems, military experience, and the things the Veteran needs help with. The social worker develops an assessment that will help the Veteran and their VA health care team develop treatment plans.

Crisis intervention
Social workers can provide counseling to help the Veteran cope with the crisis. Once the crisis is resolved, the social worker will help the Veteran establish goals to meet long-term needs. The social worker can help the Veteran apply for services and programs in the community and through the VA to meet ongoing needs.

High-risk screening
Social workers support Veterans who are at high risk, such as those who are at risk for or experiencing homelessness, have been admitted to the hospital several times, or may not be able to care independently care for themselves any longer.

Discharge planning
When a Veteran is admitted to a VA hospital, the social worker will help the Veteran make plans for their discharge back home or transition to another care setting based upon their individual needs and preferences. If the Veteran need services in their home or needs to consider alternative supporting living arrangements, the social worker can help the Veteran plan for the help they need.

VA social workers are responsible for ensuring continuity of care through the admission, evaluation, treatment, and follow-up processes. This includes coordinating discharge planning and providing case management based on the Veteran’s needs and available resources.

Case management
Social workers often provide long-term case management services to Veterans who are at high risk of being admitted to a hospital, those who have very complex medical problems, and those who need additional help and support. They are available when needed to provide and coordinate a variety of services the Veteran may need, including counseling or support services or just helping the Veteran figure out what they need and how to get it.

Case managers can also assist with issues such as guardianship, advance directives, living wills, and durable powers of attorney.

Sometimes it can be hard for a Veteran to express their needs or concerns. VA social workers can advocate for Veterans, service Members, their families and caregivers, support persons and survivors.

Social workers help educate Veterans and their loved ones about the VA system, the services and programs available to the Veteran, how the Veteran can achieve their personal goals for wellness, coping with stress and loss, and assistance finding support groups and other self-help programs in their community.

Social workers provide individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy to address emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs. Some of the areas of intervention include:

  • Substance Abuse Disorders
  • Challenges related to housing
  • Challenges related to financial concerns
  • Challenges related to relationships, childcare or elder care
  • Adjustment to illness and disability
  • Coping with life limiting or terminal illnesses

Contact a Social Worker

You will find social workers in all VA medical centers who are ready to help. If you have questions or concerns, social workers will be able to help you or can refer you to the right person for help. Contact a social worker at the nearest VA Medical Center.