Veterans should know their VA Social Worker!

10 mins read
Larry Dandridge

Every Veteran should know their VA Social Worker. If a Veteran or Veteran’s immediate family or caregiver has questions about VA benefits or how to solve problems, the VA social worker will be able to help or can refer you to the right person. 

Eligible Veterans in the LowCountry of SC and Savanna and Hinesville GA area not only need to sign up for VA Medical Care at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System (previously RHJVA Medical Center), one of its seven Community Based Out Patient Clinics (CBOCs & Annex), or online at https:// www.va.gov/health-care/apply/application/introduction but they also need-to-know who their VA social worker is and how to get in touch with their social worker. 

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System (RHJVAHCS) and its seven CBOCs and Annex serve over 80,00 Veterans in 21 LowCountry SC and GA counties, encompassing more than 15,000 square miles. This five-star, flagship, tertiary-care, and teaching medical center is rated in the top 10% of all public and private hospitals in the USA for quality of care, customer satisfaction, and many other metrics. 

One of the many reasons the RHJVAHCS out performs other private and government medical centers is the wonderful team of 170 Social Workers working at the VA medical center and its out-patient clinics. This team of Masters and PHD level educated VA Social Service professionals have also been instrumental in the RHJVAHCS achieving a Press Ganey inpatient experience rating in the top 3%, on the hospital metric, compared to over 340 other Press Ganey clients in the southeast region. See https:// www.pressganey.com to learn more about Press Ganey customer reviews and surveys. 

The RHJVAHCS and its seven CBOCs and Annex serve over 80,00 Veterans in 21 LowCountry SC and GA counties, encompassing more than 15,000 square miles. This five-star, flagship, tertiary-care, and teaching medical center is rated in the top 10% of all public and private hospitals in the USA for quality of care, customer satisfaction, and many other metrics. One of the many reasons the Ralph H. Johnson outperforms other private and government medical centers is the wonderful team of 170 Social Workers working there. 

To get a referral to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System’s Fisher House Charleston, the social worker or other provider submits a consult. A social worker at the other local hospitals (Beaufort Memorial, MUSC, Roper, Saint Francis, etc.) can contact the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System Administrative Officer of the Day (AOD) after business hours, weekends, and holidays to check eligibility. During week day business hours, the local (non-VA) hospital social worker contacts the outpatient social worker, to request a consult to be put in for the caregiver. 

There are 120 social workers supporting Mental Health and 50 social workers supporting every other program area of the RHJVAHCS system. While providing counseling, therapy, supportive services, and case management to veterans, Social Workers also serve as a vital team member in a system that relies heavily on the interdisciplinary (team) approach to health care and Veteran support. 

VA social workers offer a variety of services, including resource navigation, crisis intervention, advocacy, benefit assistance, behavioral health therapies for depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance use dependence, and homelessness (just to name a few). Social workers also ensure continuity of care through the admission, evaluation, treatment, and follow-up processes, and they provide assessment, crisis intervention, high-risk management, advocacy, and education throughout the continuum of care. 

The VA is expanding its scope to not only treat medical and mental health concerns, but it is also increasing its efforts to tackle housing, legal issues, caregiver support, and community planning. The VA Social Worker is the central point of contact for continuity of care within the VA system. 

To get a referral to the RHJVAHCS’s Fisher House Charleston, the social worker or other provider submits a consult. A social worker at other local hospitals (Beaufort Memorial, MUSC, Roper, Saint Francis, etc.) can contact the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System Administrative Officer of the Day after business hours, weekends, and holidays to check eligibility. During week day business hours, the local (non-VA) hospital social worker contacts the RHJVA Health Care System outpatient social worker, to request a consult to be put in for the caregiver. 

Every Veteran in the LowCountry of SC and GA should read about VA Social Work at the VA Health Administration website at https://www.socialwork. va.gov/about.asp. Veterans can and should find out who their assigned Social Worker is by asking their Primary Care Physician or Nurse or by calling the RHJVAHCS Social Work phone number 943-789-7635, which is in the RHJVAHCS online phone directory at https://www. charleston.va.gov/contact/ phone_directory.asp. 

You can also get help finding out who your VA Social Worker and your Primary Care Physician are by calling the RHJVA Health Care System main number at 843-577- 5011 and speak to an operator. It is a good idea to keep your RHJVAHCS Primary Care Physician and Social Worker’s names and phone numbers in your phone directory and posted on a note on your refrigerator. 

If you need to contact a social worker at night, on weekends, or holidays, the RHJVAHCS Telephone Advice Program (TAPS) phone numbers are 843-789- 6400 and 888-878-6884 and the point of contact there will help you get in touch with a on-call Social Worker, the Medical Officer of the Day, and the Administrative Officer of the Day. The Medical Officer of the Day and Administrative Officer of the Day are co-located with the Emergency Room. 

The author wishes to thank the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System Public Affairs Officer, Wayne Capps; the Acting Chief of Social Services, Jonathan Kessler; the Manager of Fisher House Charleston, Jacalyn Slemmer; and the Chief of Community Engagement and Veteran Experience, Fred Lesinski for allowing me to interview them. 

Larry Dandridge is a Vietnam War era wounded warrior, a combat and 100% disabled veteran, an ex-Enlisted Infantryman, an Ex-Warrant Officer Attack Helicopter Pilot and Test-pilot, and a retired Lt. Colonel. He is a past Veterans Service Officer, and a current volunteer Patient Adviser, CEO Advisory Council Member, and Patient and Family Advisory Committee Member at the RHJ VA Health Care System. He is also the Fisher House Charleston volunteer Good Will Ambassador and the VP for Veteran and Retiree Affairs for the Coastal Carolina Army Association of the US Army (AUSA) Chapter. Larry is the author of the award-winning, non-fiction, and action-packed BLADES OF THUNDER (Book One) and contributing free-lance writer with the Island News, you can email him at: LDandridge@earthlink.net. 

EDITOR’S NOTE 

These columns are not meant to replace carefully reading the Federal Veterans’ benefits information at www.va.gov and other locations or the State of SC Veterans benefit information at https://scdva.sc.gov . Anyone seeking advice on veterans’ benefits are advised to seek the advice and assistance of a Veterans Assistance Officer or another certified Veterans Advisor. 

Larry Dandridge is not an employee of THE ISLAND NEWS and his opinions are his alone. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of these articles, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed by the author or THE ISLAND NEWS for damages resulting from the use of information contained herein. 

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