Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, speaks to Hope conference attendees in July about the Joining Forces initiative, which she created last year with first lady Michelle Obama. (Photo by Kea Taylor/Imagine Photography.)
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a lifelong educator, spoke to social workers during NASW's national Hope conference in July about their role in helping service members, veterans and their families cope with the effects of war — and she announced NASW’s commitment to support and advance this role.
NASW has pledged to help educate all social workers about the issues related to the culture and care of U.S. troops as part of Joining Forces, Biden said, an initiative that she and first lady Michelle Obama started last year. NASW will offer:
- A free online five-course training module to all social workers, which will include military culture, advocacy, direct practice, cultural competency and standards review.
- A professional credential for social work with service members, veterans and their families, which will be based on the online training module. The credential will be offered free for one year to all NASW members and is geared toward social workers who work primarily with service members and veterans or their loved ones.
- “Standards for Social Work Practice with Service Members, Veterans and their Families,” which will be disseminated to all NASW members with the goal of providing a basic level of education on veterans and military families.
Since September 2001, “we have asked a lot of our military,” Biden said. And even though our service members and their families have answered every call of duty without complaint, “they shoulder a tremendous burden.”
Biden said one Marine wife and mother told her that people have no idea what 10 years of war can do to a family. “All my kids have ever known is war," Biden said the woman told her.
Some of the toughest challenges don't come on the battlefield, but can happen months or years after a soldier comes home, Biden said. They save lives in combat, but can sometimes feel out of place in their own homes.
Only half of all veterans seek care through the Department of Veterans Affairs, she said, which makes social workers so important. You are uniquely positioned to reach out to these military families and veterans, Biden said to Hope attendees, "because all of you are where they are — in every single county in this nation."
Biden and Michelle Obama started the Joining Forces initiative to inspire all Americans to honor and recognize veterans and military families, said retired Navy Capt. Brad Cooper, who is executive director of Joining Forces. The campaign's goal is to create better health, education and employment support for service members, veterans and their loved ones, he said.
Cooper said the initiative is advocacy- and action-oriented, with a focus on sustainability. The response has been overwhelming so far, he said, with thousands of companies signing on to hire veterans and military spouses, and health care associations and medical colleges also committing to Joining Forces.
NASW has the ability to reach 650,000 social workers with its training module, Cooper said, which will not only educate social workers now, but will plant the seeds so those well into the future will be trained to help military families.
"No other organization has done anything else like that," he said. "It's incredibly creative."
Biden told Hope attendees that NASW's actions are a way to give back to military families for all they have done for our country, and she is delighted to have social workers as part of the Joining Forces initiative.
"You are the ones who are restoring hope," she said. "Thank you for all you do for our troops."
The NASW online course, credential and standards will be available in fall 2012 and in 2013.