Helpful Resources Military Social Workers

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest employer of social workers with a master’s in social work. Social workers have worked for the department for nearly a century, since 1926.

Active duty military personnel and veterans who have returned from military service have unique experiences that may lead to physical, emotional and behavioral challenges, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. 

According to the VA, the number of veterans with PTSD varies by service era or the type of trauma experienced:

  • Up to 20% of veterans who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom experience PTSD in a given year.
  • Up to 12% of veterans who served in the Gulf War experience PTSD in a given year.
  • Up to 30% of veterans who have served in the Vietnam War have had PTSD in their lifetime.
  • Up to 23% of women reported sexual assault while in the military.
  • Up to 38% of men and 55% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the military.

Veterans are also more likely to be homeless than non-veterans, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Inside the military, life also brings challenges like being away from family, living in remote areas or unfamiliar living conditions, stress from training and the politics of combat.

Social workers help current military members and veterans deal with issues like these and get resources they need to thrive on base and in civilian life. Throughout the military system, social workers offer services such as:

  • Advocacy
  • Mental health therapy
  • Benefits assistance
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Crisis intervention
  • Treatment for drug and alcohol addiction

Military social workers and students who are interested in working with this population can keep up to date with military social work resources, organizations and military social work books and articles so they’re aware of the latest research in military social work and can better serve their clients. 

For social workers who want to learn more in school or advance their military social work career, they can keep connected and current on the latest issues and trends through military social worker organizations and resources.

Role of Social Worker on the Military

Social workers are an integral part of the military. As stated by the VA, “there are very few areas within the system where social workers do not play a pivotal role.”

Some areas social workers in the military contribute include:

  • Veterans and family services: Social workers help veterans and their families navigate resources, find community living centers and access treatment.
  • Military-to-civilian life transition: Social workers help veterans returning to civilian life by creating a safe and supportive environment through services like discharge planning and family education.
  • Community adjustment: Social workers help veterans in the community with severe mental illness and provide services to prevent homelessness, including community nursing homes, transitional housing sites and residential care homes.
  • Therapy: Social workers provide evidence-based therapy to veterans who have conditions like PTSD, depression and substance abuse issues.
  • Veterans programs: Social workers advocate for, help plan and manage veterans programs for issues like suicide prevention, polytrauma rehabilitation and spinal cord injuries.

Social workers may also work as active duty military and serve in the armed forces. Regardless of what area of social work a professional is in, most social workers who interact with adults will serve the military population in some capacity.

Military Social Work Organizations

Military Social Work Books

  • “Advances in Social Work Practice with the Military”: This book edited by Joan Beder is written by military social workers who present case material that demonstrates assessment and intervention approaches. Each chapter looks at specific service member populations and issues they face.
  • “Handbook of Military Social Work”: Edited by Allen Rubin, Eugenia L. Weiss and Jose E. Coll, this book covers topics like military culture and diversity, suicide in the military, PTSD in veterans and homelessness among veterans.
  • “Serving Military Families”: This book covers the culture of military families and the difficulties of military life. It presents personal stories from 70 active duty military members, veterans and their families and presents a review on research, theories and policies regarding this population.
  • “Social Work Practice in the Military”: This book provides an overview of the history and future of military social work practice. It covers topics including substance abuse, combat settings, family violence and ethical dilemmas.
  • “Social Work with Military Populations”: This book presents military social worker case studies for working with military members, veterans, families and communities. It includes information on issues like substance abuse, trauma responses and assessing suicide.
  • “Social Work Practice with Veterans”: This evidence-based social work book details issues related to military social work. It presents research, case studies, social work theory and practice experience to support military social work best practices.

Military Social Work Academic Articles

Information on this page was last updated in June 2021.