See Karen T. Harline's interview with Andria Lavine:
For the last eights months, my friend Andria Lavine has been serving as a social work intern in the medical practice clinic at the San Francisco VA Medical Center at Fort Miley. Here is a bit about her experience.
Tell a little bit about what exactly your job entails and who specifically you work with.
I met with veterans and their family members when they came to the clinic to see their primary care physicians. Most of the veterans I saw had served in WWII or the Vietnam War, and many had multiple medical problems. I assisted them with issues like obtaining a connection to VA benefits, finding caregivers (either care for the veteran or for an ill loved one), getting food to their home, and making sure that they could safely live at home (especially if they lived alone).
Before your took this position, how often did you think about veteran's issues, specifically.
As a student at Smith College School for Social Work, I have been consistently educated about the psychological and social issues facing current returning veterans. Historically, the school I attend was designed to train social workers to help veterans since it opened over 90 years ago, and it actively maintains that goal. Independent of this, when I decided to go into social work, I knew that I wanted to be trained to work with veterans. This was because as a new therapist, I thought that working with veterans was one of the most socially responsible ways that I could use my degree. I could also imagine that veterans issues would eventually permeate into most social work fields, for example in a school you may see children whose parents had been deployed, or working in a substance abuse treatment facility you may come across veterans as well. Although I was never a supporter of war, I saw that this was the most I personally could do as a civilian to aid in the aftermath of war.
Did you have any close connections with veterans before taking on this position?
My grandfather was a veteran and I have some close friends who are veterans as well.
What would you say to someone who thinks of "veterans issues" as something that the government is taking care of and not necessarily something that private citizens have to dedicate time and effort to.
We will all end up devoting time to veterans issues, and more and more so as our troops come home over the next ten years. On a personal level, reading up on what issues returning veterans are facing may be beneficial to help support children, friends or family members who have been deployed in their transition back to civilian life. On a more macro level, donating to veterans organizations or volunteering your talents, whatever they may be, makes a bigger difference than you may imagine. Recognition from local government may mean a lot to a returning veteran, and knowing that they can access support from their community in general may also mean a lot.
Based on your experience, what do you think is the most important need veterans collectively share that is not being addressed?
I think that many needs for veterans are being addressed to some degree, it just takes time and resources for them to materialize. For example, just recently the VA systems have put into place a powerful initiative to end homelessness within the veteran population over the next 5 years. However, bidding on land, building new housing units and getting them ready for use may take considerable time. I think that homelessness has been the most important need not sufficiently addressed over the years, as evidenced by the large number of homeless Vietnam veterans and the growing number of returning veterans who are homeless. Hopefully, aspects of this initiative will materialize quickly, securing more section 8 and HUD VASH housing vouchers for veterans while also working with local communities to provide stable solutions in a timely manner.