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Who Is The AVASW?

The Association of VA Social Workers encourages the development of comprehensive Social Work services to veteran beneficiaries through education,collaboration and advocacy to enhance the effectiveness of all Social Workers throughout the entire US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Healthcare system. The Association advocates for the recruitment, retention, and increased recognition of  Social Workers of the VA. At this time, there are more than 12,000 social workers throughout the VA system. More than 1500 student interns are preparing for their Masters level social work degrees (from colleges and universities approved by the Council on Social Work Education), many of whom are receiving VA educational stipiends during their field placements in the VA. (How VA Social Workers Help Veterans)

AVASW is a 501 (c) (5) membership organization. AVASW can advocate and educate Congress on issues that affect VA social work; whereas, federal employees can not.  The tension as a professional social worker, seeking treatment, justice, equity ,etc for clients vs obligations as employees in a large, political and bureaucratic organization has the capacity to be alleviated by an association such as AVASW.


The Association of VA Social Workers was originally created in 1979 as a professional association for VA social work chiefs under the name “Association of VA Social Work Chiefs" (AVASWC).    The association was first conceptualized and spearheaded by a small group of Social Work Chiefs in “District 25” (California). Through their efforts the association eventually received nationwide support among social work chiefs throughout the VA system.

During the early 1990’s while the VA began to undergo radical reorganization (in response to Dr. Kenneth Kizer’s  “Prescription for Change”),  many facilities were eliminating or restructuring chief’s positions.  The title “Chief” no longer applied to several members of the Association, although they remained in managerial positions.  At a VA Social Work Chiefs conference held at San Antonio, Texas in September 1993, the Association held a meeting and voted to change the name of the Association from the Association of VA Social Work Chiefs to the Association of VA Social Work Managers (AVASWM).

Ongoing changes and re-positioning of Social Work Managers into a variety of roles, titles, and responsibilities led to an open meeting of the AVASWM at a VA Social Work Managers Conference in Las Vegas on September 13, 2000.  At that time, the members present voted to change the constitution/by-laws of the AVASWM and open membership to any VA social worker, a significant change in the membership and purpose of the Association.  The association was renamed the Association of VA Social Workers (AVASW).

Today, the AVASW continues to live out its purpose as stated in the 2015 revised edition of the Association Constitution and By-Laws

“The purpose of the Association is to encourage development of comprehensive Social Work services to veteran beneficiaries through education and training, leadership, promotion, and member collaboration to enhance practice effectiveness. The Association will advocate for the recruitment, retention, and recognition of VA Social Workers. To further its objectives, the Association may collaborate with established social work organizations and other organizations  that are relevant to social work practice in health care settings."

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