Social work in the military

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This article considers the duties of Social workers in the military.


  • Counsel military personnel and their family members
  • Supervise counselors and caseworkers
  • Survey military personnel to identify problems and plan solutions
  • Plan social action programs to rehabilitate personnel with problems
  • Plan and monitor equal opportunity programs
  • Conduct research on social problems and programs
  • Organize community activities on military bases
  • Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard Social Workers can and do deploy to war zones to assist service members with combat or operational stress disorders.

Civilian Counterparts

Civilian social workers work for hospitals, human service agencies, and federal, state, county, and city governments. They perform duties similar to those performed by military social workers. However, civilian social workers usually specialize in a particular field, such as family services, child welfare, or medical services. They may also be called social group workers, medical social workers, psychiatric social workers, and social welfare administrators.

Civilian social workers in the military provide family advocacy services, such as conducting assessments on cases involving domestic violence or child abuse within a military family.

Social Work functions of the American Red Cross SAF

Ethical Dilemmas

Besides ethical dilemmas that are inherent to all social workers, the policies and practices in the military cause even more issues.

  • The dual profession of the military social worker
  • The multi-purpose role of the social worker as a human service provider
  • Hierarchical structure governed by military law (Uniform Code of Military Justice)
  • Dual clients (active-duty and civilians)
  • Geographic and professional isolation


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