Social Work in the Armed Forces

There are many opportunities for professional social workers interested in serving veterans and military families. Regardless of practice area, chances are that nearly all social workers will serve this population in some capacity, whether through mental and behavioral health therapy, social services, housing, health care, care coordination, or a variety of other services. 

Other social workers may work primarily with service members or veterans through their private practice specifically aimed at serving them, or through veterans service organizations or other targeted agencies. Still other social workers will choose to serve in the armed forces, including the Air Force, Army, and Navy.

What the Air Force Says
Military life can obviously be stressful on Airmen. It can also be stressful on their families. As an Air Force Clinical Social Worker, you’ll help families cope with typical challenges as well as ones unique to the military. You’ll also have the opportunity to develop your leadership skills as you plan and implement multiple programs.

What the Army Says
Social workers were first commissioned as officers in the U.S. Army in July 1945, although social workers assisted soldiers during both World War I and II as American Red Cross employees. Military and civilian social workers serve their country and the Army in multiple ways spanning the spectrum of clinical, administrative, and research social work skills. Licensed Clinical Social Workers serve as officers, both in the Active Component, and in the Reserve Components.

What the Navy Says
Whether they’re defending our country or helping those who cannot help themselves, Sailors and Marines must endure long separations from loved ones and exception emotional circumstances. So must their families. Social workers are crucial in helping everyone stay strong. Navy social workers connect those who serve and their family members to the care and support they need. They counsel individuals who are about to deploy and their families. They offer crisis intervention for those who have undergone a traumatic experience. They lead workshops on a variety of topics, like transitioning from deployment to everyday life.

Social Work in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Social workers are important providers of services to service members, veterans, and their families. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest employer of master’s level social workers in the United States. Social Workers have worked in the VA since 1926. Today, social workers offer a variety of services to veterans and their families, including resource navigation, crisis intervention, advocacy, benefit assistance, and mental health therapy for conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and drug and alcohol addiction.

Social workers in the VA also ensure continuity of care through admission, evaluation, treatment, and follow-up processes, and they provide assessment, crisis intervention, high-risk management, advocacy, and education to veterans and their families. Social workers offer a particular skills set and knowledge base that is beneficial, if not indispensable, to veterans who may return from war with a host of challenges. Veterans are served well by social workers’ person-in-environment perspective and their ability to solve multi-factor problems.

Social Work in the U.S. Public Health Services

Behavioral health officers within the Commissioned Corps are psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychiatrist nurses. These officers are needed by America now more than ever. Untold numbers of U.S. wounded warriors are returning home from combat with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and other undiagnosed behavioral health issues. 

Through our partnership with the Department of Defense, established in 2008, you can assist our nation’s warriors, their family members, and other individuals with behavioral health needs. In addition to serving wounded warriors, our behavioral health officers can also be found providing clinical care, responding to public health disasters and emergencies, and developing and implementing mental illness prevention and treatment programs that benefit entire communities.