Understanding Military Social Work- By Valerie Protass

The VA is the #1 employer of social workers with a total of 11,000 social workers working for the VA. Within the VA there are both civilian social workers and social workers actually in the military (Blackboard presentation).

Some basic goals military social workers strive for in their practice are “client empowerment, advocacy, and help with basic social services” (Daley, 2003, pg. 437).

Social work practice for and within the military provides a multitude of services such as working on “family violence, substance abuse, mental illness, adaption to the military, wartime trauma, coping with physical illness and health enhancement” (Daley, 2003, pg. 438) Connie Sturgeon, LCSW, also provides sexual trauma and harassment counseling as well as bereavement counseling (Connie Sturgeon).

It is very important for military social workers to normalize and validate veterans’ behaviors, feelings, and thoughts so that they do not think they are “crazy” after coming back from some of the most traumatic sites and situations (Connie Studgeon).



It is also very important to use a strengths perspective while working with those who have been affected by war. It is wise to acknowledge current soldiers or veterans for their contribution to our country but also how brave it is to be able to sort through some of the unsettling feelings war causes among individuals (Connie Studgeon).

Families of veterans can have secondary PTSD as they may not be able to understand or relate to their loved ones after significant trauma has changed the veterans. It may be beneficial to seek marriage and family therapy to heal the family unit as a whole (Connie Studgeon).

Connie Sturgeon, an experienced licensed clinical social worker in the field of military social work provides aspiring social workers with three pieces of valuable advice- trust your intuition, be flexible, and truly listen to the people you’re talking with. She emphasizes a genuine ability to listen and care and says that the authenticity of a social worker goes a long way with veterans



Daley, James G. (2003). Military social work: A multi-country comparison.International Social Work, 46(4), 437-448

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