Last year, the United States lost a veteran a day to suicide–and that’s just the beginning of the story. In the next few years, an estimated 600,000 combat soldiers will return to the U.S. from Iraq and Afghanistan, over half to urban areas like New York City. They will be in great need of social workers who are sensitive to their combat experience, the treatments that are available to help them, and the myriad of resources and bureaucracies that serve veterans.
To help meet these needs, the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work is offering scholarships to students who are interested in careers working with veterans and their families. Already five students have been awarded the $5,000 scholarships for the spring semester, which will be applied as one-time tuition reductions. Those chosen come from a variety of backgrounds; however many have served in the military or are from military families, some with parents who currently are serving. The school anticipates awarding an additional five scholarships for the fall semester.
“The Touro College and University System is extremely proud of the Graduate School of Social Work and its efforts on behalf of veterans, who are committed to insuring the safety and freedom of all Americans,” said Alan Kadish, M.D., president and CEO of the Touro College and University System.
Dr. Steven Huberman, founding dean of the graduate school, echoed Dr. Kadish’s remarks: “President Obama, on the day of his inauguration, affirmed that no veteran would be abandoned upon his or her return to America. Touro’s new social work initiative reflects this sacred obligation.”
Melissa Earle, MSW, Ph.D., and director of social work professional education and online learning at the graduate school, explained that many soldiers will be coming home with combat-specific forms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. “The emotional and practical needs of returning veterans require a specialized sensitivity and training. Our goal is to support interested MSW students in becoming social workers who will serve the veteran community,” said Dr. Earle, who supervises the program and teaches the military social work curriculum.
Regardless of their backgrounds, all of the students selected thus far seem to share several attributes: respect for the work veterans do and the fact that vets risk their lives, and a firm desire to help address the social issues they will face upon their return–including homelessness and unemployment.
During their studies, the students will come to understand traumatic events and receive the training they need to serve the veteran community effectively. Students will take one three-credit course entitled “Clinical Social Work Practice with Military Veterans and their Families.” They will also begin a yearlong field placement at an organization that services veterans, and participate in a field seminar with a veteran-sensitive social worker where they will discuss issues related to their field placements.
The three-credit course is divided into three sections: the first addresses military culture and the soldier’s job; the second covers behavioral health issues and treatment for both veterans and their families; and the third part provides an overview of the existing systems that serve veterans.
“Social workers treating veterans need to know not only the most effective clinical approaches to working with veterans, but also how to ask the right questions, identify the programs that will have the right resources, and pick up the phone to resolve the vets’ and their families’ problems,” Dr. Earle said.
In taking this step, the school is joining 28 out of over 200 graduate-level accredited schools of social work in the United States who are offering military-specific education to master’s students.
The Touro College Graduate School of Social Work was established in 2006. The school’s curriculum provides coursework and practical training in clinical social work settings leading to a master of social work (MSW) degree. The MSW program is designed to educate and prepare self-aware social work practitioners who are dedicated to the values and ethical standards of the profession, and prepared to work with diverse and vulnerable populations in the metropolitan New York City area. The program meets all academic requirements for both social work licenses: LMSW (Licensed Master Social Worker) and LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker).
Specialized niches have been created that position students for rewarding employment opportunities. In addition to its new concentration on veterans and their families, others include clinical practice, aging services, and Jewish communal leadership. v