The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs; an organization that was set up by President Ronald Reagan (1988) elevated the former Veterans Administration, to a significant level of a Cabinet executive department; giving it a novel name that allowed it still to be referred to by its longtime acronym, the ‘VA.’ The organization is comprised of the following three diverse administrations: the Veteran’s Health Administration, the Veteran’s Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration. Unfortunately, all these divisions have faced diverse challenges when performing their missions; for instance, controversies that involve VA hospitals along with the eminent longstanding delays in providing services. While social workers remain vital service providers to the service members and veterans together with their families, the VA is renowned to be the leading employer of social workers with a Master’s degree in the U.S, not to mention that VA has been generating job opportunities for social workers since 1926 (Byrne et al, 2010).
The History and Development of VA
The roots of the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs can be traced back to the year 1636 after the Plymouth Colony Pilgrims voted that this Colony would support their soldiers who had been disabled by the Pequot Indians’ war as per their website. Further, throughout the Revolutionary War, the 1776 Continental Congress ratified pension for soldiers who had been disabled, not to mention that support was expanded to widows as well as dependants in the 19th century. Studies show that during the World War 1, the benefits of veterans expanded further, where the first consolidation of the veteran’s programs of the World War 1 took place in 1921 after the creation of the Veterans Bureau by the Congress. The Bureau was later in 1930, elevated to a federal administration by President Herbert Hoover (Godleski & Peters, 2012). Presently, VA is headed by the U.S Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The Functions of the VA
The VA is renowned in providing the numerous American veterans together with their dependents with diverse services including health care and benefits programs alongside having an access to national cemeteries. It has been noted that VA employs more than two-thousand and fifty thousand people in different medical centers, benefits offices, benefits programs and even national cemeteries across the U.S (Zeiss & Karlin, 2008). This organization undertakes its tasks through the aforementioned three administrative divisions: Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and National Cemetery Administration.
Benefits Administration (VBA)
The VBA provides myriad services to individuals who worked in the US armed forces, and even to their families. Some of the key services in include education and vocational benefits of rehabilitation, pensions and home loans alongside life insurance. This administration runs fifty-seven regional offices alongside utilizing nine service delivery networks so as to facilitate the provision of every service to the veterans and their families. One VBA’s principal tasks are the provision of pensions together with disability compensation, with over 2.7 million veterans receiving either disability payments or monthly pension checks every year (Byrne et al, 2010). Disability compensation goes to veterans who have service-linked disabilities, implying that such disability resulted from a disease or injury that aggravated or acquired during an active service in the line of duty. Moreover, veterans who have non-service-linked disabilities can be eligible for the pension programs provided the veteran served in wartime but became permanently and completely disabled outside services duty.
The main education benefit dispensed through the Montgomery GI Bill by the VBA, provides up to thirty-six months of funding for veterans with the desire of studying at colleges and technical or vocational institutions. Furthermore, this bill purports job training and apprenticeships with participants being able to get an extra thirty-six thousand US dollars in tuition. Veterans’ spouses and children may also acquire education benefits via the Dependents’ Educational Assistance program that provides up to forty-five months of education aid (Godleski & Peters, 2012). The housing program of VBA offers veterans loans to purchase homes, especially in cases where the private financing is unavailable.
Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
VHA is obligated to provide myriad medical services to a significant 5.5 million veterans throughout the country. The administration runs a set-up of health care facilities comprising of one-hundred and seventy-one medical centers, three-hundred and forty outpatient clinics, one-hundred and twenty-seven nursing home care units and one-hundred and ninety-six Vietnam Outreach Centers (Zeiss & Karlin, 2008). Again, it aids in supporting the health care of veterans in non-VA hospitals, besides being the nation’s largest graduate medical education provider.
National Cemetery Administration (NCA)
The NCA is responsible for the maintenance of the national cemeteries throughout America for the veterans’ burial and their family members. In addition, this administration maintains thirty-three lots of soldiers and monument sites, offers Presidential Memorial Certificates in recognition of the service of the veterans, marks the graves of veterans with a government-furnished headstone alongside administering grants for setting-up or extending veterans cemeteries. Today, NCA preserves over 2.8 million gravesites at one-hundred and twenty-five national cemeteries in thirty-nine states and Puerto Rico (Byrne et al, 2010).
VA Core Values and Characteristics
Just like many other organizations, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs follows a mission statement, which states that the organization’s mission is to fulfill President Lincoln's promise "To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan" by serving and honoring the men and women who are America's Veterans. The five VA’s values that match its mission go by the acronym ‘I CARE,’ include: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence (Godleski & Peters, 2012). As per the department’s website, these values offer a foundation for the behavior standards expected of every VA employee.
VA Employment as a Social Worker
Social workers remain critical service providers to service members, veterans and their respective families. The system has limited areas where social workers play minor roles; whether interested in macro or micro practice, the social workers are awarded with numerous options within the VA. Some of the various services offered by social workers to veterans and their families include: acute and medical psychiatric units, rehabilitation units, community living centers, advocacy, psychosocial residential rehabilitation treatment programs, navigation of resources, intervention of crisis, benefit assistance, mental therapy for several conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and on the issue of drug and alcohol addiction (Godleski & Peters, 2012).
As key members of the multidisciplinary treatment teams, their duties include: assessment, intervention on crisis and family education alongside discharge planning. Again, they make sure that veterans go back to a safe and supportive environment with the apt services in place so as to enable a successful functioning of the veteran and his/her families. In other programs, these workers assist veterans in readjusting into their community through a partnership with the local care homes, community nursing homes, transitional housing sites, adult day care as well as home care agencies (Zeiss & Karlin, 2008).
Clinical social workers have the responsibility to provide evidence-based therapies like cognitive processing together with prolonged exposure therapies in PTSD clinics, mental health clinics and substance abuse treatment programs. Other programs that social workers manage include those dealing with spinal cord injuries/disease, poly-trauma rehabilitation, visual impairments, palliative care, homelessness, suicide prevention, recovery implementation, therapeutic and supportive employment, palliative care and veteran’s justice outreach among others (Byrne et al, 2010).
VA’s Leadership Roles
The service chiefs in mental health, veteran-centered care, geriatrics care and voluntary services are social workers. Imperatively, these workers make sure that comprehensive services have been put in place for the numerous veterans within every facility’s catchment area, on top of being responsible for policies and procedures alongside accreditation. Therefore, social workers can be described as associate directors and medical centers’ directors who are awarded the responsibility to see that the basic services have been made available for veterans and families whilst remaining financially responsible (Godleski & Peters, 2012). Moreover, these workers have been in top leadership and management positions at the VA Central Office; relaying speeches at congressional hearings concerning the diverse challenges that are facing the various veterans’ generations today.
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- Dr. Mutinda Jackson (Author), 2018, About the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/703269