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Veterans Health Administration


Do I Need a Social Worker?

Woman social worker makes notes as a man talks


by Hans Petersen, VA staff writer
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A question many Veterans should ask

You will find social workers in all program areas in VA medical centers who are ready to help you with most any need. If you have questions or problems, the social worker will be able to help you or can refer you to the right person for help.

How do you know if you need a social worker?

Here are just some of the ways that VA social workers can help. They can advise you on getting help from the VA or from community agencies, such as Meals on Wheels, so you can continue to live in your own home.

Do you need help in applying for benefits from the VA, Social Security and other government and community programs? Ask your VA social worker.

VA social workers develop and implement treatment approaches which address individual social problems and work with acute or chronic medical conditions, dying patients, and bereaved families.

 VA social workers…a voice for at-risk Veterans and their families. 

They can make sure your doctor and other VA staff on your treatment team know your decisions about end-of-life issues, generally called advance directives and living wills. This includes things like whether you want to be on life support equipment, whether you are an organ donor, and which family member or other person you have chosen to make decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make those decisions yourself.

They can help you arrange for respite care for your caregiver so she or he can have a break or go on vacation without worrying about who will be caring for you.

What do I do first?

The first step is generally for the social worker to meet with you, and often with your family. The social worker will ask you questions about your health, your living situation, your family and other support systems, your military experience and the things you think you need help with.

The social worker will then write an assessment that will help you and your VA health care team make treatment plans.

If you are in a crisis situation, social workers can provide counseling services to help you get through the crisis. The social worker will then help you with more long-term needs and help you apply for services and programs in your community and through the VA.

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 services based on the patients clinical and community health and social services resources.

A Serious Checklist

If any of these situations apply to you or your family, ask to see the social worker at your VA Medical Center:

  • If you are having marriage or family problems
  • If you would like help with moving to an assisted living facility, a board and care home or a nursing home.
  • If someone close to you has passed away and you want to talk about it
  • If you have problems with drinking or drug use
  • If you feel that someone is taking advantage of you or if you feel mistreated in a relationship
  • If you are a parent who feels overwhelmed with child care
  • If your parent or spouse is in failing health
  • If you are feeling stress because of your health or because your medical condition interferes with your daily activities
  • If you are feeling sad, depressed or anxious
  • If you really aren‘t sure what you need, but things just don‘t feel right
  • Financial or housing assistance

There are many more ways VA social workers can help. You can read about all of the services on their VA website. There is also a web page with a very helpful list of resources within VA and outside of VA.

March is Professional Social Work Month

This year, the theme for National Professional Social Work Month is “Weaving Threads of Resilience and Advocacy.”

VA social workers place an emphasis on using the strength of their core values to manage serious life challenges, to celebrate the profession, and to be a voice for at risk Veterans and their families.

“Today, with our student interns, we are 11,430 strong, with 10,718 social workers employed in the VA. Throughout March, we will identify, recognize and celebrate the numerous contributions of Social Work Departments as well as the many contributions of individual social workers,” says Carol Sheets, Acting Chief Consultant, Care Management and Social Work Services.