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Connecting Veterans to Care through Social Work

A woman social worker shares a document with resources available to a Veteran at the Washington DC VA Medical Center.

March is National Social Work Month and a great opportunity to highlight social work resources available to Veterans at the Washington DC VA Medical Center.

All VA social workers are highly trained, highly educated, and licensed to practice in a health care setting. At the Washington DC VA Medical Center, they serve as a member of the Patient-Aligned Care Team, and take an active role in developing, monitoring, and assessing your treatment plan, and ensuring continuity of care through every step of your health care journey.

Washington DC VA Medical Center Chief of Social Work, Dr. Rhonda Sturdivant, LCSW, DBH, leads a team of 153 social workers at the main medical center and it’s six Community Based Outpatient Clinics.

“We are committed to providing support to improve the quality of live for the Veterans we serve, and their families,” said Dr. Sturdivant. “From counseling and advocacy to connecting them with resources in their communities, our skilled clinicians have an extensive list of services to offer.”

Those services include:

Assessments: A VA social worker will take the time to sit down with you, and often with your family, to learn about your health, living situation, at-home support systems, military experience, and any other issues you would like help with. After spending time getting to know you and your goals, your social worker will prepare an assessment that helps your primary care team develop a tailored treatment plan.

Case management: Social workers often provide long-term case management services to Veterans who are at high risk of homelessness or being admitted to a hospital, those with very complex medical issues, and those who need additional help and support. They are available to offer support and counseling, help identify needs and connect you with resources and care to meet those needs. 

Crisis intervention: Social workers provide counseling services to help you navigate crisis. If you are struggling with paying your bills, providing for your family or securing housing, they can help you apply for emergency aid from VA and community programs in your area to address:

  • Financial emergencies
  • Housing resources if you become, or are at risk of becoming homeless

Advocacy: Sometimes it can be hard to speak up for yourself. Your social worker will advocate for your preferences throughout your VA health care journey.  This includes ensuring your VA Primary Care Team understands your treatment preferences regarding end-of-life situations like:

  • Advance directives and living wills
  • Your preference in the event you are placed on life support
  • Your status as an organ donor
  • Who you have chosen to make decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make those decisions yourself

Education & Community Support: Social workers provide education to you and your family about resources in your local community that offer support and aid. They have an extensive knowledge of and working relationship with government and community organizations and can help you apply for:

  • Financial or housing assistance
  • VA benefits, social security, or other government and community programs

Psychotherapy: Clinical social workers provide individual, group, and family therapy to address emotional, behavioral and mental health needs. They can offer support to help with:

  • Grief when a loved one passes away
  • Drinking or drug use
  • Stress related to childcare, poor health of a loved one, or relationship struggles
  • Stress related to poor health or medical conditions that interfere with your daily life

Discharge planning: If admitted to Washington DC VA Medical Center, a social worker can help you make plans for your return home or to the community. If you can no longer live by yourself, they can help arrange for care in your home or an alternative location. Examples of discharge planning support they provide include:

  • Connecting you with programs like Meals on Wheels to help you maintain your independence
  • Arranging for caregiver relief when your caregiver needs time off
  • Moving you to an assisted living facility, a board and care home, or a nursing home
  • Feelings of sadness, depression or anxiety related to a major lifestyle change

These are just some of the services that social workers provide Veterans at Washington DC VA Medical Center. Dr. Sturdivant said the list, like her team, is always growing and advancing to ensure Veterans, and their families, receive the support and care they have earned.

Click here to learn more about the extensive Social Work program at Washington DC VA Medical Center.


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