Helpful Resources Military Social Workers
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:
- 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
- Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service: This initiative was designed to ensure service members, veterans and their families receive behavioral health services. The organization regularly posts job openings for military social workers.
- Home Base Veteran and Family Care: Home Base Veteran and Family Care is a nonprofit organization and private-sector clinic providing mental health treatment for those associated with military service. The organization provides resource guides and clinical tools for professionals like military social workers.
- Military Families Learning Network: This organization engages military family service providers to enhance impact and encourage professional growth. The organization provides online professional development, social learning and resource sharing for professionals who service military service members and their families.
- National Association of Social Workers: NASW is the largest global membership organization of social worker professionals and provides resources and networking opportunities for military social workers.
- National Center for PTSD: The National Center for PTSD has resources for families and providers of those who have PTSD. The Center’s vision is to be the world’s leading educational and research center of excellence on PTSD.
- National Coalition for Homeless Veterans: The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans presents resources and policy news regarding homeless veterans’ issues. The organization also holds an annual conference.
- USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families: This center provides social work training education for those working with military service members. The Center also provides research, technology developments and publications related to military social work.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: The VA provides veterans with resources related to health care and transition benefits. It employs social workers throughout the organization.
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
- “Contemporary Social Work Practice with Veterans: An Introduction to the Special Issue”: This article in the “Clinical Social Work Journal” details the importance of military social work, characteristics of America’s veterans and the stages of psychosocial development veterans encounter.
- “Effective Social Work Practice with Military, Veterans and Their Families” (PDF, 1.4 MB): The author describes the perceived competence of military social workers and their readiness to work with military-connected families; she also emphasizes the need to integrate military-connected knowledge into the education curriculum.
- “Expanding our understanding of military social work: The concept of military- and veteran-connected populations”: Published in the “Journal of Family Social Work,” this article covers the concept of veteran- and military-connected populations with the intent of promoting awareness of those who are affected by military service.
- “Exploring military social work from a social justice perspective”: This article details how educational content on military issues can be enhanced with international perspectives. It also covers how social workers can address discrepancies between the social justice values of social work and military culture.
- “Military Social Work: Opportunities and Challenges for Social Work Education”: The author presents the case for a military social work specialization because of the specific needs of the military population; she also describes various types of military social work, including micro military social work, mezzo military social work and macro military social work.
- “Prevalence and Risk of Homelessness Among US Veterans”: Researchers confirm veterans are overrepresented in the homeless population, with increased risk for veteran status and black race. They examine risk factors and conclude that there are specific health needs for aging homeless populations.
Information on this page was last updated in June 2021.