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Louisville VA Medical Center


March Celebrates Social Work Appreciation Month

Social worker talking with veteran

Social worker talking with veteran.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Social Work at the Robley Rex VAMC

Since the first social work class was taught at Columbia University in 1898, social workers in the United States and across the world have laid the groundwork for organizations and services to serve people in need.  Much of the social change we benefit from, including our civil rights, the availability of disability and unemployment insurance, Social Security, and the laws and programs that are designed to assist and protect our Veterans, the elderly, the abused, the poor and those who may otherwise have limited resources, can be attributed to social workers in action.

During each Social Work Appreciation Month we take the time to pause and recognize the tremendous contributions that social workers have made.  The Robley Rex VAMC, which opened in 1952 and has played an integral role in the delivery of services to our Veterans of the United States Military and their families, joins this celebration of related social work contributions.

Social work has enjoyed a rich history at the Robley Rex VAMC. Connie Paynter, Chief of Mental Health at the medical center and Esther Kaufman, Supervisor, Social Work Service, began working at the VAMC as social workers in 1981 and 1978, respectively. Around this time the facility employed 10-12 social workers, serving Veterans of the World War I, World War II, Korean, and Vietnam Wars.  During this period, according to Ms. Paynter, whose first position was in Social Work Inpatient Psychiatry, "You had to know enough to address the needs of the Veterans and their families. You had to be able to help people with PTSD, gambling addictions...we were generalists".  Ms. Kaufman, whose first position at the Robley Rex VAMC was a Mental Health Social Worker/Family Therapist, was partly inspired to work at the facility after spending 2 1/2 years in the Peace Corps in Malawi.

In the years since the core group of Robley Rex VAMC employees began providing social work services to our Veterans, the medical center's related programs have grown at a steady rate.  It currently employs approximately 100 social workers, all of whom provide a full range of psychosocial services, serving as mental health and other clinicians and holding leadership roles within and outside the profession.  Services provided by the social workers include, but are not limited to, inpatient and outpatient evidenced-based psychotherapy, crisis intervention, case management, and activities around recovery.

Examples and descriptions of current specialty programs that employ social workers to serve Veterans of the Robley Rex VAMC are as follows: 

Pain Clinic:  Provides direct service for Veterans who are referred for non-medical pain management strategies.

Community Residential Care (CRC):  Provides residential and personal care homes for Veterans with mental health issues who cannot or do not have the ability to live on their own.

Military Sexual Trauma (MST):  The MST program provides individualized treatment for Veteran who have experienced sexual trauma while in the military.

Compensated Work Therapy (CWT):  The Compensated Work Therapy program offers, for those who meet admission guidelines, either short-term, transitional work experiences at the VAMC, or long-term, supported employment for Veterans who desire competitive employment in the community.

Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV, HUDVASH and Outreach):  Social workers in the HUDVASH component provide long term case management services to Veterans and help with housing issues. Social Workers in the Grant Per Diem/Outreach component try to locate homeless Veterans, assist them with emergency shelter, and link them to VAMC services they qualify for.

If you are not familiar with the essential services provided by the Robley Rex VAMC social workers, now is the time to ask.  Social workers are located at the main campus on Zorn Avenue and all Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs).  Talk to your provider and ask to speak with one today.

Website: National Association of Social Workers* 


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