Social Work in the Military

  • Even though social work perspectives may change from country to country, most key elements like client empowerment, advocacy, and referral services stick around.

  • There are some factors that may impede a country’s military social work. China, for example, doesn’t have the required infrastructure to maintain the value of the profession. Even though they have 2.84 million military personnel, there are no social workers because after the revolution of 1949, all social work schools were closed until fairly recently leaving a gap in expertise. So, without an education system in place, advocacy is unlikely and growth/advancement of the field is unlikely (Daley, p. 443)
  • Social work and the military joined up back in 1918 after a successful Red Cross Project (Daley, p. 439)
  • Although it is not necessary, a background in psychology and/ or sociology is really helpful as the role of many military social workers is to assess the client’s mental health and figure out what treatment/ intervention is needed (Class notes).

  • The military population is currently at 270 million with an active force of 1,481,760. Out of this population there are: 150 Army social workers, 31 Navy Social Workers, 215 Air Force social workers, and 600 civilian workers aiding the efforts (Daley, p. 439).
  • Military social work is crucial to the success of the military. Often times, soldiers choose not to re-enlist because the impact it has on their family. The loss of soldiers means the loss of money due to having to train new soldiers for the same missions. To mitigate this, military social workers help reduce family stress which in turn increases motivation for the soldier to stay enlisted.

  • Many countries do not need a division of military social work because there military population/expenditure isn’t large enough. On top of that, the social service systems of some countries are adequate enough to take care of their veterans.


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


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