Hill briefing focuses on social work with service members, veterans and families

Feb 19, 2013

By Laetitia Clayton, News staff

NASW hosted a Capitol Hill briefing in November to highlight the social work profession’s role in working with veterans, military members and their families.

NASW held the briefing, “Social Workers Join Forces to Support Service Members, Veterans, and their Families,” in conjunction with the Congressional Social Work Caucus. The briefing was a part of NASW’s commitment to the White House’s Joining Forces initiative, which aims to create better health, education and employment support for military families and veterans.

Rear Adm. Peter Delany, left, with SAMHSA, speaks during a Capitol Hill briefing in November, as Lt. Col. Jeffrey Yarvis, of Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, center, and Col. Ann McCulliss Johnson, Reserve social work consultant to the Army surgeon general, listen.

The briefing featured five speakers — all social workers with expertise in this area but who approach it from different viewpoints.

“We wanted a diverse group of speakers with different perspectives on uniformed social work service,” said the session’s moderator, Elizabeth Hoffler, special assistant to NASW CEO Elizabeth J. Clark.

Jo Ann R. Coe Regan, of the Council on Social Work Education, talked not only about educating future social workers on challenges facing the military, but also about being a military spouse.

Deborah Amdur, of the Veterans Health Administration, discussed the changing needs of veterans and how social workers have historically worked to support this population. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Yarvis, of Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, shared the perspective of social work in active duty military, particularly the importance of meeting the mental and behavioral health needs of those who have served.

Col. Ann McCulliss Johnson, Reserve social work consultant to the Army surgeon general, talked about the Reserve’s unique role and what social workers should understand when working with them. And Rear Adm. Peter Delany, with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, spoke on merging public health and social work service.

A common point the speakers made is that all social workers need to have a basic understanding about military culture and the opportunities and challenges facing service members and veterans in order to provide them with the best care.

Learning the cultural context of the military is the biggest concern right now for new social workers, Regan said.

She said she melds the professional and personal sides of the issue, as she is a trained social worker who is also the wife of service member and whose father was in the military. She said military culture was never mentioned when she was getting her social work education, but it is now a growing area in education. The profession is also expanding for social workers with a military concentration, she said.

From the February 2013 NASW News. NASW members click here for the full story.

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