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Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence

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Multiple Sclerosis Social Workers Professional Page

MS Social Workers in the VA…

  • Are knowledgeable about MS and how it affects the psychosocial aspects of daily life of a Veteran with MS.
  • Use evidence-based social work practice methods especially focused in MS.
  • Stay up-to-date with the changing MS disease process and how it affects the Veteran in daily life.
  • Address the unique needs of the Veteran MS population.
  • Serve the comprehensive social work needs of Veterans with MS, Caregivers, and their families throughout the disease course.
  • Work in a multidisciplinary MS Care Team in planning, implementation, and evaluation of MS treatment programs.
  • Conduct psychosocial assessments and high risk screenings of the Veteran with MS.
  • Formulate a social work component of the overall MS treatment plan.
  • Serve many roles: Case Manager, Advocate, Counselor, Facilitator, Educator, and Negotiator.

Meet our MSCoE Social Workers

  • Maggie Kazmierski, MSW, LCSW-C, CCM is a MSCoE-East Senior Social Worker and the Spinal Cord Injury Clinic Coordinator for the Baltimore VAMC in Baltimore, MD.
  • Alicia Sloan, MPH, MSW, LICSW is a core Research and Special Projects Coordinator with MSCoE-West at VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, WA.
  • Jan Spencer, MSW, LCSW is the social worker for MSCoE-West as well as the Epilepsy Center of Excellence-Northwest in Portland, OR.

Training Opportunities

Professional Resources for MS

MS Annual Conferences

MS Veteran Resources

Caregivers of Veterans with MS Resources

VA Resources

National Resource Directory

Social Work Organizations/Resources

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MS Social Workers Play Many Roles on the MS Care Team*

As a CASE MANAGER:

As an ADVOCATE:

  • Advocate for health care services inside and outside of VHA: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Disability. (If unable to work or beginning to have difficulty, we can provide information on SSDI and how to apply/qualifications, etc.)
  • Advise on Veteran’s benefits and VA compensation programs: aid and attendance support and fundingprostheticsvocational rehabilitation, and MS service-connection.
  • Intercede and speak in defense of the Veteran’s well-being.
  • Advocate for Veteran’s needs and desires in their care following a Patient Centered Model.
  • Navigate with Veteran through the VA health care system and private sector.
  • Encourage Veterans to call if having problems with issue, cannot get a resolution, or have a question and have no idea who to ask.
  • Navigate through common barriers and assist with removing barriers to other needed services.
  • Help expedite health services.
  • Check for service-connected MS using Veteran’s date of service and when symptoms began.
  • Link to VSO if other SC conditions or worsening conditions.
  • Provide education and assist with Advanced Care Directives (ACD) or review existing ACD. Does ACD still reflect their goals of care?
  • Communicate with other primary service areas and VAs or needs in that community, and locate their social worker there.

As a COUNSELOR:

  • Provide crisis intervention to Veterans, Caregivers and their families.
  • Provide Individual, family, and group counseling. Some VA locations provide telehealth counseling.
  • Provide supportive counseling to assist Veteran/Family members in coping with the impact of their disease, change in roles/identity, and disease progression.
  • Use different forms of counseling techniques: cognitive behavioral therapymotivational interviewing, strengths based approach, and others.
  • Provide coping strategies for managing emotions: sadness, anger, worry, fear, and other feelings.
  • Provide referrals to and/or facilitate MS support groups: in-person and telephone support groups, caregiver support groups.
  • Provide a ‘clinic’ and offer both phone and in-person counseling.
  • Provide MS – specific interventions.
  • Suicide assessment/prevention:
    - Veteran Crisis Line
    - MIRECC for Suicide Prevention, and 
    - Facts About Veteran Suicide.

As a FACILITATOR:

  • Facilitate Veterans/Caregivers together for peer support: MS support groups, telephone support groups, caregiver support groups.
  • Topics identified by our Veterans.
  • Offer meetings by V-tel, Clinical Video Telehealth, and VANTS conference call.
  • Develop relationships with community organizations that support Veterans with MS and their family/caregivers.
  • Respond to calls for financial assistance, transportation, etc.

As an EDUCATOR:

  • Inform not only the Veteran/Family, but also colleagues, on resources, support programs, and systems for Veterans with MS and their caregivers.
  • Provide education to Veterans with MS, families, and interdisciplinary team members on the psychosocial impact of illness and disease progression.
  • Provide MS specific materials: MS Veteran Booklet and MS Veteran Newsletters.
  • Advise Veterans regarding VA benefits and compensation programs.
  • Provide education on planning for care with the use of Advanced Directives.
  • Present at international and national conferences sponsored by MS and Veteran organizations: CMSC, PVA, etc.

As a NEGOTIATOR:

  • Provide mediation between the Veteran and the healthcare system.
  • Assist in resolving Veteran and caregiver conflicts.
  • Provide supportive counseling as appropriate.
  • Assist in resolving systemic conflicts that impact the care of the Veteran.
* Adapted from handout by Jan Spencer, MSW, LCSW.