“We meet people who have nothing, living on the street, no income, not connected with family, battling addiction, just really going through a tough time. I know how instrumental social work can be to get someone’s life back on track.”  – Natosha LaCour, Social Work Supervisor. 

Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center social workers are involved in nearly every aspect of Veteran care.

Social workers are a diverse group, ranging in specialties from mental health counseling to housing homeless Veterans. Many people think they just do discharge planning, but social workers are looking for resources as soon as the Veteran walks through the facility door.

For every problem, there is a solution.

“We are the best networkers there are,” said Claudia Mullin, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), in the Women’s Inpatient Specialty Environment of Recovery. “Helping to provide, look for, and research all potential options for Veterans really is a strength of our profession.”

Mullin is pictured above providing trauma therapy to a female Veteran.

One of the things that make social workers so valuable is their network of resources. Another is their ability to provide mental health counseling. In fact, they make up the largest group of mental health providers in the country.

Digging deep for the root of the problem

Mullin, who has more than 30 years of experience in mental health, said that social workers look past the diagnosis, digging deeper to find the root of the problem.

“We don’t see patients as their diagnoses,” she said. “The symptom is the tip of the iceberg. We try to address the psycho-social experiences that lead to the symptom. For instance, most substance abusers usually have  trauma as a basis for why they’re self-medicating.”

For social workers, it’s about getting to the root of the problem so that the person can make real progress and sustain the results.

“I look at someone as a person, not the sum of his or her problems,” said Natosha LaCour, Community-Based Outpatient Clinic Social Work supervisor. “I believe we all have the power to impact change and help others. We want to empower them to help themselves.”

Two women social workers talking

Natosha LaCour, right, social work supervisor, discusses the strengths of social work with Aundrienne Coomer, LMSW, mental health service.

LaCour, who has worked in several areas of the hospital, said her time in Homeless Services impacted her the most.

Helping Veterans rediscover themselves, find a place to live, get a job, and pay their rent gave LaCour such a sense of service.

“There was a shine in their eyes, a sense of pride,” she said. “They felt complete again. I saw how impactful my role had been. That was the most rewarding time of my career. I’ll see some of my older Veterans from time to time and it’s always a nice reunion. You become a part of their lives. You’re in their homes. There is a different dynamic in the relationship.”

For Mullin, it has been her work with trauma survivors that has been the most impactful.

Observing transformation is “soul satisfying”

“The most rewarding experience for me is the almost miraculous healing that occurs when a survivor truly accepts and believes that they were not responsible in any way for what happened to them,” she said. “Observing the powerful transformation that occurs when victims go from surviving to thriving is soul satisfying.”

Social work allows for many of these types of career moments. It’s a problem solver’s dream.

“I love the challenge of problem solving,” said LaCour. “You’re constantly looking at different problems to come up with a treatment plan to impact a family’s life in a positive way. For every problem, there is a solution. Take things one day and one problem at a time. Every day is a new challenge.”

Todd Goodman is a public affairs specialist at the Michael E. Debakey VA Medical CenterTodd Goodman is a public affairs specialist at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.

Share this story

Published on Apr. 16, 2019

Estimated reading time is 3.4 min.

Views to date: 211


  1. Arthur Johnson April 22, 2019 at 9:57 am

    I put in a claim for Neuropathy of the feet and legs due to my type 2 Diabetes and the VA denied it because I had it before been diagnosed how stupid is that.

    • paul kasper April 25, 2019 at 12:55 am

      did you appeal the decision,find another rep to help you. They can say that the neuropathy was the indicator of the type 2 diabetes.

  2. John Watkins sr April 20, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    I would like information on how to apply for a social worker.

    • Janice Walker April 23, 2019 at 8:33 am

      I’m also trying to get my dad a social worker.

    • Nadia Monteago April 24, 2019 at 9:53 pm

      I am not sure of your area of residence, In Florida, around the Broward county area, you may walk into the VA Clinoc on Commercial BLV and request to see a social Worker. From my experience, as well as others, You are granted one. We call the gate keepers.
      Best Wishes

  3. Robert Lindsey April 18, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    If it is such a big deal, then why went my battle buddy with severe depression and PTSD leaves there worst than when he got there. He went to the VA with high hopes to talk to his doctor and I felt like I wasnt heard … He didn’t even try to listen just said what he had to say gave me more meds and a suicide hotline card as if he hasn’t already called them on multiple occasions … “he didn’t give a damn about what I had to say, I was just another number to him.” Those were my friends word about Dr. Mohammed, Afzel. I guess that is how Veterans are treat in Hampton, Virginia.

  4. Timothy Ray April 17, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    Bullshit. 10 years an still no answers or help. Hate the #va

    • Chesty Puller April 18, 2019 at 3:46 pm


    • Milwaukee patient April 20, 2019 at 7:57 pm

      This is exactly what is happening all over. My doctor hasn’t given me a Pap smear in 10 years even though I asked. I asked for. STD test and she ignored me. It’s so bad that two days before I have an appointment. I am literally sick to my stomach. I am so depressed. I’m just waiting to die already . I’m not getting care at the VA. I am getting pushed out the door.

  5. A.Atherley April 16, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    Good story. Where can anyone apply for a Social Worker job and where can we obtain a list of facilties with vacancies.

  6. Donald Jones April 16, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    It would be nice a big help if this service was available at Central Alabama Veterans Health Care Services . I have ask and was looked at like I was growing Horne’s . We feel that the same services should be offered to all Vets

  7. JAMES T SMALL JR April 16, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    If Mental Health is such a priority for veterans, explain to me why my copay is higher to see counselor than my regular Dr. Before coming to VA for health care, I was seeing a counselor for past 4 years weekly. Now when I cannot afford to pay for my insurance I come to VA and to see a counselor is almost as much if I kept my private insurance. I apparently do not qualify for assistance even tho I live check to check.
    Wheres the priority? Im on a very heavy script (3) and I cannot afford to see someone if I need adjustment (other than GP)
    Wheres the priority? I know there are worse off people, but my first responsibility is myself.
    Wheres the priority?

  8. Judy Miller April 16, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    The Psychiatrist I saw is not ethical nor up to date on treatment protocols. (Central Texas) She is also heartless and does not show any compassion as if she was strictly a veteran’s hospital employee following rules written for her job description. I spent almost one hour with the psychiatrist sobbing the whole time with her in the office. I was in severe crisis and she prescribed the lowest dose of an antidepressant. And then she told me over and over to stop the one medication I have been on for 25+ years, which was an anti-anxiety medication. Support for PTSD patients is horrible for females. Group therapy is so so and full of old men. There is NO CONSISTENCY WITH COUNSELORS OR THERAPISTS. They act like it is no big deal to see a different social worker every appointment. They say, “You should be able to have one-to-one therapy once monthly and with someone different all the time and do just fine.” That is so antithetical and unethical and very bad treatment. The psychologists and therapists know it and act like they are “fine” with the status quo. That is so so bad in the mental health care system and the people who need individual therapy and decent medication management are getting inferior care. I am a vet, a 10-year psych Registered nurse and have been in private therapy for many years before and know what good counseling and psychotherapy looks and feels like. I feel very sorry for other VETS that don’t have another source to get mental health. VA. – GET IN TOUCH WITH ME IF YOU WANT SOME DECENT FEEDBACK!!! Luckily I had the choice program for outside counseling but now they say they have run out of money. I had to suddenly stop therapy which was devastating for me. I want to be able to use the choice program again without limitations or until I am done as expressed by the provider, not the VA bank account. Remember the VA does NOT offer proper and ethical, up-to-date psychotherapy.

  9. Jim Anon April 16, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    It would be nice if you and Professional Counselors could work together in these positions rather than blocking them out.

  10. John E Langhals Jr. April 16, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    The Wade Park Clinic in Sandusky, Ohio is about as efficient as any Medical Facility nation wide. I am very pleased with all the V.A’s Services

  11. John E Langhals Jr. April 16, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    The Wade Park Clinic in Sandusky, Ohio is about as efficient as any Medical Facility nation wide. I am very pleased with all the V.A’s Services.

  12. paul gunderson April 16, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    I will tell you as a Veteran social work help just a small amount. It is slow to get appointments and the VA in general is hard to get good quality efficient care.

  13. Chris Moishe Davis April 16, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    Ha ha…my VA Hudvash SW put me and my son in drug infested apartment complex. VA psychologist too busy to help me, etc. Rude, incompetent.

  14. David Witenstein April 16, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    The Social Workers in Vision 8 are disgusting. I only use them to help with paperwork. There is no privacy when dealing with them and it’s not my job is a regular response. That goes for the 4 Florida Hospitals I dealt with. HCFHV is an exception.

  15. Bill Misner April 16, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I am a 79-year disabled {PTSD} Veteran who needs help taking care of my disabled wife who is not a Veteran. How do I get VA to help me provide Home healthcare for her in order to relieve me enough that I am not so stressed out full-time helping her manage her life?

  16. Curtis Harris April 16, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    How to connect with a social worker

    • Nadia Monteago April 24, 2019 at 9:49 pm

      As of Feb 19th, the VA has updated and changed their system of benefits. If at all possible ,go to the benefits office and request assistance for yourself, and maybe the help they provide you with, will also benefit your wife. Good luck and Gods Blessing

  17. Charles Philip McCall April 16, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Is there a point that the VA gives up on me and is just waiting for me to die
    My doctor seem not. concerned about my blood sugar being over 300 daily. Or my right arm whithering.

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • In this four-part series on VA's Emergency Preparedness Simulation efforts, you'll see how simulation and emergency preparedness professionals build collective strategies that mitigate, prepare, respond, and recover from tragedies impacting Veterans and their communities.

  • A VA employee donated a kidney to his friend and VA coworker, providing the gift of life. Doctors said 100% match almost impossible.

  • The PACT Act will help VA provide health care and benefits to millions of toxic-exposed Veterans and their survivors. Veterans have already begun to apply for the benefits.