In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Veteran Services

  • Introduction
  • Military Cultural Competency
  • Textbooks for Providers
  • Journals
  • Risk and Protective Factors
  • Assessments
  • Veterans’ Families

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Social Work Veteran Services
Sherrie L. Wilcox, Anthony Hassan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 January 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0127


The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are part of the Overseas Contingency Operations, have resulted in more than two million combat-related deployments, many of which have involved service members engaging in repeated deployments. Although it is estimated that 80 percent of returning military personnel are expected to have minimal mental health problems, military personnel, veterans, and family members experience a number of post-deployment reintegration challenges. One of the biggest challenges veterans face after deployment is reintegrating back into their communities and having access to culturally competent services. While many civilian organizations and professionals are eager to work with veteran populations to help ease this transition, a cultural divide exists between military-impacted populations and their civilian counterparts. Particularly with regard to warrior psyche and the experience of combat trauma, civilian clinicians lack the means to fully comprehend these paradigms and the implications that they have on the lives of veterans and their families. As a result, military-impacted individuals, already reticent to seek services or mental health treatment, encounter well-meaning clinicians who are ill-prepared to accommodate them and their families in providing assistance with respect to appropriate mental health and medical care, employment readjustment, training support, educational and financial guidance, and other critical services and transition supports. In addition, the transition from military to civilian/veteran life can be difficult and is not always negotiated successfully. The stressors encountered by our veteran populations are ongoing and are likely to remain so. Today, tomorrow, and in the future, veterans will cope with the mounting burden of repeated combat deployments and community reintegration challenges that, if not addressed, will jeopardize the continuation of our all-voluntary military force and our national security. Therefore, it is essential that behavioral health professionals engage, assess, and treat in a manner that shows a sensitive awareness of military culture and employs the most effective interventions available. This reference guide is one of the many resources available to address these challenges. This resource list is by no means exhaustive, but rather a primer that begins with a sample of articles related to improving military cultural competency, which is an essential skill for behavioral health providers who treat military populations.

Military Cultural Competency

A number of recent reports clearly indicate a shortage of mental health professionals competent to meet the demands of those returning from war. A new understanding of factors affecting resilience and recovery has been accumulating swiftly due to an outpouring of federal research funds aimed at assessment and intervention. Military cultural competency is an essential skill for community-based behavioral health providers. Beder 2012; Blaisure, et al. 2012; Flynn and Hassan 2010; Hazle, et al. 2012; Moore 2011; and Reger, et al. 2008 provide various overviews of military culture from different perspectives. Wilcox and Rank 2013 describes the military deployment cycle and challenges associated with transitioning through the deployment cycle and provides considerations for clinicians. Daley 1999 provides general information regarding social work with military populations.

  • Beder, J., ed. 2012. Advances in social work practice with the military. New York: Routledge.

    This textbook describes the military culture, clinical challenges with military populations, and unique challenges for providers.

  • Blaisure, K. R., T. Saathoff-Wells, A. Pereira, S. M. Wadsworth, and A. L. Dombro. 2012. Serving military families in the 21st century. New York: Routledge.

    This text provides a family-focused overview for military populations, beginning with a brief introduction to military culture. Both military and civilian resources for military families are provided.

  • Daley, J. G., ed. 1999. Social work practice in the military. Binghamton, NY: Haworth.

    This book provides an overview of practice with military populations specifically for social workers. Chapters include content on the historical contexts of practice, the military practice arena, and unique issues of military social work.

  • Flynn, M., and A. M. Hassan. 2010. Unique challenges of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Journal of Social Work Education 46.2.

    This article provides an overview of challenges that are unique to military personnel who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

  • Hazle, M., S. L. Wilcox, and A. M. Hassan. 2012. Helping veterans and their families fight on! Advances in Social Work 13.1: 229–242.

    This article provides an overview of challenges that military populations experience when reintegrating back into the civilian world after military service.

  • Moore, B. A. 2011. Understanding and working within the military culture. In Treating PTSD in military personnel: A clinical handbook. Edited by B. A. Moore and W. E. Penk, 9–22. New York: Guilford.

    This chapter provides an overview of the military culture.

  • Reger, M. A., J. R. Etherage, G. M. Reger, and G. A. Gahm. 2008. Civilian psychologists in an army culture: The ethical challenge of cultural competence. Military Psychology 20.1: 21–35.

    DOI: 10.1080/08995600701753144

    This article summarizes challenges and opportunities that non-veteran civilian providers experience when working with military populations. It also provides an overview of cultural and ethical considerations for working with military populations.

  • Wilcox, S. L., and M. G. Rank. 2013. Transitioning through the deployment cycle. In Military psychologists’ desk reference. Edited by B. Moore and J. Barnett, 306–310. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This chapter provides an overview of the deployment cycle and clinical considerations for those working with military populations at each stage of the deployment cycle.

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