By: Mindy Barnes
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the number one employer of social workers in the United States. The VA employs over 11,000 social workers in service to the roughly 2 million veterans living in the U.S. (John Vassello, 03/08/16, Class PowerPoint). The priority of military social workers employed at Vet Centers is to assist these war zone veterans of all eras, including: World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, and the Global War on Terrorism, among many others. If you are a veteran, here is what the Vet Center can do for you (all the information below was gathered from Connie Studgeon’s guest lecture and the materials she provided):
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is common among military members who have been through a traumatic event, such as combat. Some symptoms include: reliving the event through flashbacks, avoiding situations that remind you of the event, negative changes in beliefs and feelings, feeling keyed up (hyperarousal), and a long list of related complications like depression and anxiety. Spouses and children may also experience secondary PTSD. Vet Center staff help PTSD sufferers learn to cope with or lessen the effects of PTSD through utilizing the various psychotherapy techniques or through medication.
#2. Sexual Trauma and Harassment Counseling
The military is still largely a man’s world, sometimes making life very difficult for female military personnel. But sexual assault and harassment can happen to veterans of both sexes. Spouses of veterans can also be victims of sexual trauma and harassment. The Vet Center offers individual and group readjustment counseling, sexual trauma counseling, referral for benefits assistance, and liaison with community agencies, along with other services (discussed below) designed to help with the trauma or its side effects.
#3. Group and one-on-one counseling
The Vet Center also provides individual and group counseling for anger management, alcohol and/or drug problems, depression and anxiety, and social problems. Vet Center staff include wonderful social workers like Connie Studgeon, LCSW-R, from the Binghamton Vet Center who provide nonjudgmental and supportive therapy to vets in need. Sometimes just having someone who is willing to listen can make all the difference.
#4. Marital and family counseling
The families of military members are also affected by war. The military family member may be suffering from PTSD or sexual trauma, which can have negative effects on spouses and children. These effects may include secondary PTSD, marital troubles, or abuse. The best way to help veterans is through helping the whole family.
#5. Bereavement Counseling
Death is an unfortunate aspect of war. All too often veterans return home having lost many friends, while others do not return at all. Bereavement counseling is offered to military personnel, as well as to parents, siblings, spouses and children of military personnel who have died in the service to our country.
#6. Other programs and services
The Vet Center also offers a variety of other services such as parenting classes, benefits and job counseling, and even meditation and yoga classes. Vet Center staff are concerned with the health and well-being of the mind, body and soul of all veterans. They also respect rights to privacy, and all services are completely confidential.
If you are yourself a veteran, or if you are a family member of a vet, and would like to learn more about what the VA and Vet Center can do for you, you can visit www.vetcenter.va.gov for more info. If you live in Broome County, you can contact the local Binghamton Vet Center at (607) 722-2393. Remember, if you are experiencing any problems related to your combat zone experience, you are not crazy and you are not alone. You do not have to live at the mercy of these problems, and you have the strength and the ability to take back control over your life. The sooner you contact the Vet Center the better the outcome, but it’s never too late to seek help. Thank you all for your service.
Pamphlet (Binghamton Vet Center), information sheets (War Zone Veteran Eligibility, and “What is PTSD?” found at http://www.ptsd.va.gov), and lecture provided in class by Connie Studgeon, LCSW-R, Binghamton Vet Center, 03/10/16.
Vassello, John. 03/08/16. Class PowerPoint.