Citizenship. Be a citizen of
the United States. (Non-citizens may be
appointed when it is not possible to recruit qualified citizens in accordance
with chapter 3, section A, paragraph 3g this part.)
Education. Have a masters
degree in social work from a school of social work fully accredited by the
Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
Graduates of schools of social work that are in candidacy status do not
meet this requirement until the school of social work is fully accredited. A doctoral degree in social work may not be
substituted for the masters degree in social work. Verification of the degree can be made by
going to the CSWE web site
to verify if that social work degree meets the accreditation standards for a
master of social work.
Licensure. Persons hired or
reassigned to social worker positions in the GS-185 series in VHA must be
licensed or certified by a state to independently practice social work at the
masters degree level. Current state
requirements may be found on the OHRM
Exception. VHA may waive the
licensure or certification requirement for persons who are otherwise qualified,
pending completion of state prerequisites for licensure/certification
examinations. This exception only
applies up to the full performance level.
For grade levels above the full performance level, the candidate must be
licensed or certified.
(a) For grades below or at the full performance
level, VHA social workers who are not licensed or certified at the time of
appointment must become licensed or certified at the independent, masters
level within 3 years of their appointment as a social worker.
(b) It is VHA policy that a VHA social worker who
does not yet have a license that allows independent practice must be supervised
by a licensed independent practitioner of the same discipline who is a VA staff
member and who has access to the electronic health record.
(2) Failure to Obtain License or
Certification. In all cases, social
workers must actively pursue meeting state prerequisites for licensure or certification starting from the date of their appointment. At the
time of appointment, the supervisor, Chief Social Work or Social Work Executive will provide the unlicensed/uncertified
social worker with the written requirements for licensure or certification,
including the time by which the license or certification must be obtained
and the consequences for not becoming licensed or certified by the deadline. Failure to become licensed or certified within the proscribed amount of
time will result in removal from the
GS-185 social work series and may
result in termination of employment.
(3) Loss of Licensure or Certification. Once licensed or certified, social workers
must maintain a full, valid and
unrestricted independent license or certification to remain qualified for employment. Loss of licensure or certification will
result in removal from the GS-185 social work series and may result in termination of employment.
English Language Proficiency. Social workers must be proficient in spoken
and written English in accordance with VA Handbook 5005, Part II, chapter 3,
section A, paragraph 3j.
IN DESCRIBING YOUR EXPERIENCE, PLEASE BE CLEAR AND SPECIFIC. WE MAY NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS REGARDING YOUR EXPERIENCE.
(1) Knowledge of Current Professional Social Work Practices. To be creditable, the experience must have
required the use of knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics
associated with current professional social work practice. The experience or education must be post-MSW
degree. Experience and education
satisfying this requirement must be active professional practice, which is
paid/non-paid employment as a professional social worker, as defined by the
appropriate state licensing board.
(2) Quality of Experience. Experience is only creditable if it is
obtained following graduation with a masters degree in social work and if it
includes work as a professional social worker directly related to the position
to be filled. Qualifying experience must
also be at a level comparable to social work experience at the next lower
(3) Part-Time Experience. Part-time experience as a professional social
worker is creditable according to its relationship to the full-time workweek. For example, a social worker employed 20 hours
a week, or on a 1/2-time basis, would receive 1 full-time workweek of credit
for each 2 weeks of service.
(4) Fellowships or Post-Graduate Training. Fellowship and post-graduate training programs
are typically in a specialized area of clinical practice, i.e., group or family
practice. Training as a fellow or
post-graduate may be substituted for creditable experience on a year-for-year
(5) Practicum in a VA Setting. A VHA practicum experience may not
be substituted for experience, as the practicum (field placement) is completed
prior to graduation with a masters degree in social work.
Grade Determinations. In addition to the basic requirements for
employment, the following criteria must be met when determining the grade of
Education and Licensure. GS-9 is the entry level grade for the GS-185
social work series and is used for social workers with less than one year of
post-MSW experience and for social workers who are not yet licensed or
certified at the independent practice level. Social workers at the GS-9 level
are working toward completion of prerequisites for licensure or certification.
In addition, the candidates must demonstrate the KSAs in subparagraph (b)
NOTE: Social workers with more than one year of
post-MSW experience may be appointed at an advanced step within the GS-9 grade
commensurate with their years of experience.
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
to provide psychosocial treatment to a wide variety of individuals from various
socio-economic, cultural, ethnic, educational, and other diversified
backgrounds. This requires knowledge of human development and behavior
(physical and psychological), and the differential influences of the
environment, society, and culture.
Ability to work with patients and families who are experiencing a variety of
psychiatric, medical, and social problems utilizing individual, group, and
family counseling skills. Work with more complex problems is done under close
supervision. With guidance from the social work supervisor, ability to assess
the psychosocial functioning and needs of patients and their family members,
and to formulate and implement a treatment plan, identifying the patients
problems, strengths, weaknesses, coping skills, and assistance needed.
knowledge of psychosocial treatment modalities and, under supervision, ability
to implement treatment modalities in working with individuals, families, and
groups to achieve treatment goals. This requires judgment and skill in
utilizing supportive, problem solving, or crisis intervention techniques.
Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with clients,
staff, and representatives of community agencies. Ability to communicate
effectively, both orally and in writing, with people from varied backgrounds.
Knowledge of medical and mental health diagnoses, disabilities, and treatment
procedures. This includes acute, chronic, and traumatic illnesses/injuries;
common medications and their effects/side effects; and medical terminology.
skill in the use of computer software applications for drafting documents, data
management, and tracking. Ability to learn and utilize software programs in use
Individuals assigned as GS-9 social
workers are considered to be at the entry level and are closely supervised, as
they are not yet functioning at the independent practice level conferred by independent
licensure or certification. Social
workers at the GS-9 entry level are typically assigned to VHA program areas
that do not require specialized knowledge or experience. Since these social workers are not practicing
at an independent level, they should not be assigned to program areas where
independent practice is required, such as in a CBOC, unless there is a licensed
social worker in the program area who can provide supervision for practice.
(a) Experience, Education and Licensure. Promotion
to the GS-11 full performance level requires completion
of a minimum of 1 year of post-MSW degree experience in the field of
health care social work (VA or non-VA
experience) and licensure or certification in a state at the independent practice
level. NOTE: For appointment licensure or certification at this level, please refer to paragraph 2c.
In addition to meeting basic
requirements, a doctoral degree in social work from a school of social work may
be substituted for the required 1 year of professional social work experience
in a clinical setting. In addition, the
candidate must demonstrate the KSAs in subparagraph (b) below.
(b) Demonstrated Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
Knowledge of community resources, how to make appropriate referrals to community and other governmental agencies
for services, and ability to coordinate services.
Ability to independently assess the psychosocial functioning and needs
of patients and their family members and to formulate and implement a treatment
plan, identifying the patients problems, strengths, weaknesses, coping skills
and assistance needed, in collaboration with the patient, family and
interdisciplinary treatment team.
Ability to independently conduct psychosocial assessments and provide
psychosocial treatment to a wide variety of individuals from various
socio-economic, cultural, ethnic, educational and other diversified backgrounds.
This requires knowledge of human
development and behavior (physical and psychological) and the differential
influences of the environment, society and culture.
Knowledge and experience in the use of medical and mental health
diagnoses, disabilities and treatment procedures. This includes acute, chronic and traumatic
illnesses/injuries, common medications and their effects/side effects, and
Knowledge of psychosocial treatment and ability to independently implement
treatment modalities in working with individuals, families and groups who are
experiencing a variety of psychiatric, medical and social problems to achieve
treatment goals. This requires
independent judgment and skill in utilizing supportive, problem solving or
crisis intervention techniques.
Ability to independently provide counseling and/or psychotherapy
services to individuals, groups and families. Social workers must practice within the bounds
of their license or certification. For
example, some states may require social workers providing psychotherapy to have
a clinical level of licensure.
Ability to provide consultation services to other staff about the psychosocial needs of patients and the
impact of psychosocial problems on health care and compliance with treatment. Ability to provide orientation and coaching to new social workers and
social work graduate students. Ability
to serve as a field instructor for social work graduate students who are
completing VHA field placements.
Ability to independently evaluate his/her own practice through
participation in professional peer review case conferences, research studies,
or other organized means.
Knowledge and skill in the use of computer software applications for
drafting documents, data management, and tracking, especially those programs in
use by VHA.
(c) Assignments. This is the full performance level for social
workers. GS-11 social workers are
licensed or certified to independently practice social work. They are assigned to all program areas,
including inpatient or outpatient medicine, surgery, mental health, neurology,
rehabilitation medicine, and geriatrics. Employees provide professional, independent
social work services in the assigned area.
VA HANDBOOK 5005/50, PART II
G39. SOCIAL WORKER QUALIFCATION STANDARD