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Supporting the Mental Health of Veterans

Julie Porter

Intensive Community Mental Health Recovery (ICMHR) Social Worker, MSW '18

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"I have been able to practice two very different forms of social work"

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I was fortunate to complete my health care concentration internship at VA Illiana Health Care System (VAIHCS) in Danville IL, and soon after it began I knew that I wanted to continue my career there following graduation. I began my employment as a PACT (Patient Aligned Care Team) social worker, where I was able to put into practice the skills in integrated care that I learned as a BHWELL scholar. After a year, an opportunity arose to move to a program that provides intensive supports to Veterans living with significant mental health issues. In this program, I am able to meet with veterans in their homes and in the community for ongoing case management, supportive counseling and community integration. In the span of two years, I have been able to practice two very different forms of social work, and my skills have grown exponentially. The ability to explore a wide range of programs is one of the best things about working for the VA. There is a place for every type of social work.

Before coming to the VA, I had little experience with Veterans. My dad was a Navy Vet, but that didn’t really come into play in our relationship. The VA has provided me with thorough training on military culture, Veterans’ issues, and the nuts and bolts of working in such a large and multi-layered organization. Training is another benefit of working at the VA. There is a massive library of online trainings that is available to all staff, with an extensive selection of trainings related to mental health, integrated care, and community social work, along with in-person trainings when available and the opportunity to take paid time off to attend outside trainings (with supervisor approval). Social workers at the VA never worry about obtaining CEUs for licensure renewal.

All of that makes the VA a great place to work and grow my career, but the best part of working here is the team of amazing, committed, compassionate, welcoming and supportive social worker whom I am proud to call colleagues. It truly is a special group of people, and now that I’m here I can’t imagine working anywhere else.

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