Our ongoing polling of VA clinical social workers continues to yield interesting results about the type of work they do, their working conditions, their access to important information, and the ways in which they would like to do their work better.
Among the most recent fifty respondents, there is a wide diversity of clinical social workers employed at the various VA healthcare sites: for example, 21% of respondents work at a site with fewer than 25 clinical social workers on premises, while 28% work at a site with 100-plus. Wherever they may work, and in whatever numbers, each tends to work at a variety of tasks: 71% work some of the time in mental health, 22% in suicide prevention, and 17% in homeless outreach. About 30% work in a variety of job areas that do not take up much of their time; and only 17% work treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), arguably the area in which clinical social work services are most needed in the VA.
With regard to more qualitative measurements, 42% report that they were not given information about the Special Advancement for Achievement professional pay program that was mandated by federal law years ago, and only 43% report ever receiving information from the national office. A full 75% say that their labor union has never effectively advocated for clinical social workers in the VA.
Three recent respondents advised as follows:
“I benefit from peer review and EBT trainings and receive excellent supervisory support but we need increased staffing at our VA Ambulatory Care Center.”
“At my site, we have effective integrated treatment teams (like HPACT) providing holistic physical and behavioral healthcare, but I find that Mental Health is silo’d and clinical social workers are not respected as mental health providers.”
“At my site we do EBT well, but there are not nearly enough clinical social workers, with two of us in CBOC trying to meet the needs of nearly 6,000 veterans—and I am stuck at GS 11 with no chance of advancement.”