By Anna Miller
Master of Social Welfare, 2013
Social work with the military community cuts across all areas of focus, including school social work, medical social work, mental health, gerontology, and so much more. Furthermore, surveys show that more than 70 percent of service members, veterans, and their families live in the community, not in isolation, so it is imperative that there is greater awareness of the challenges the military community faces and more training for social workers to effectively respond to this community's needs.
The conference on Saturday, January 26, developed and coordinated by Region H of the National Association of Social Workers-CA , in collaboration with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Department of Social Welfare, titled “The Home Front: Social Workers’ Response to the Military Community” brought social work graduate students and professionals throughout Los Angeles County together to learn about this unique community. The conference was designed to create a greater awareness of the challenges veterans, service members, and their families face and to develop a better understanding of effective responses.
The invaluable nature of this event is evident in that California is home to more veterans than any other state (1.9 million in CA; 21.7 million nationally) and has the second largest active duty service member population. The increasing rates of suicide and mental health problems among this population has led to NASW’s commitment to educating and training social workers to support the health and well-being of our nation’s veterans, service members and military families.
The morning began with a panel of current military mental health professionals, Mr. Valvincent Reyes, LCSW, and Ms. Catherine Mogil, Psy. D.
Reyes offered a vast amount of knowledge on the treatment of combat trauma for Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan (OEF-A) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) combat veterans. Through this information, attendees became aware of how combat trauma can alter a service member’s behavior, cognitive processing of information, and personality characteristics, as well as the changes that can occur in their biological and physiological functioning. Reyes also provided clinicians with tangible resources to utilize in treatment settings.
Mogil exposed attendees to the unique culture of military families and the challenges that military and veteran families face as result of deployment and reintegration. Furthermore, she provided education of the array of developmental impacts on children of varying ages and specific interventions to strengthen the resilience and protective factors of this community.
After the panel, attendees had the opportunity to ask specific questions of the panel members in focusing on strengthening their own professional experience with the veteran and military population.
At the end of the event attendees had an opportunity to network with the panel members, current social work professionals and social work graduate students, which allowed for an opportunity to build relationships among the social work military community.
Personally, I felt that this event was truly groundbreaking for Region H and UCLA. As we continue to educate social work professionals on the unique experience of the military community, we can work towards reducing the stigma surrounding mental health treatment and more service members, veterans, and their families will receive the mental health services they both need and deserve.
the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
Founded in 1994 and dedicated in 2011, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs  is a leading institution for research and scholarship in the areas of public policy, social welfare and urban planning. Based in the global metropolis of Los Angeles, UCLA Luskin develops creative solutions and innovative leaders that confront challenges in immigration, drug policy, prison reform, transportation, the environment, and other areas vital to the continued health and well-being of our global society.