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AVASW Social Worker of the Quarter 2017

AVASW Social Worker of the 3rd Quarter
Veronica Murray, LCSW

Veronica Murray came to the VA in 2010 to be part of a rural health pilot program that was to last no longer than 13 months.  The program went until 2012, and from there she moved to the Home Based Primary Care Program in the Richmond VA system. 

Veronica got her Masters in Social Work from a Joint Master’s program between North Carolina A & T State University and University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  This curriculum prepares students for a Multicultural practice.  Ms. Murray has worked with Geriatric patients, adults, and women’s and children’s programs prior to coming to the VA in 2010.  She has always had a place for Veterans in her heart and when she got the opportunity to get into this pilot program she applied and got hired. 

When she did the rural health pilot program she was involved with a lot of outreach to the rural area and education of Veterans in the rural areas.  When her program ended, she was moved to the Home Based Primary Care Program and she was again able to go out into the community and visit and care for Veterans in their homes.  There she was also able to work with the geriatric population that she also loved and had the freedom to be out in the community working with the Veteran who had a difficult time getting into the medical center. 

According to the nomination, Ms. Murray is a Sr. Social Worker who has stepped up when needed to provide leadership and supervision to less experienced social workers.  She trained new staff and mentored them as they came on board; “She oriented the temporary supervisor,  providing both exceptional support and guidance to ensure the team met all mandates and performance measures for the program.”   “She provided hands on training for staff with CPRS and appropriate Social Work and HBPC note titles to use, documentation training and completion of encounters.” She was responsible for the transition of a new Social Worker to a Fredericksburg CBOC with orientation and support and a warm hand-off of cases so there would be no gaps in service to those Veterans.  When there were other changes and transfers within the HBPC group, Ms. Murray again stepped up and took on three teams to other staffs two teams, while still working to assist new workers by going out with them on visits to provide support and feedback.  She has become the subject matter expert and ensured smooth transition for new HBPC Social Workers and Social Work Supervisors with whom she works. She is looked to as a leader by the whole team that work in the HBPC program.

She is passionate about her work with Veteran, having served for a brief time in the military herself.  She said that one of the most important things for her is to always have an open mind and to always advocate for your Veterans.  Be a lifelong learner.  The more we know the better we develop our skills, the better service we can provide.  Network with colleagues, with the community partners and people in the community.  Your networks are an important resource.  Finally, self-care is very important.  Ms Murray does meditation, yoga, being with people, seeing movies, and remembering that you can’t save everyone. 

Thank you, Veronica Murray, for being a great role model in your program and in your facility, and for the work you do with the Veterans you serve. 


AVASW Social Worker of the 4th Quarter
Abigail, Martinez-Rivera

It is my pleasure to announce that the Social Worker of the 4th Quarter is Abigail Martinez-Rivera from the San Juan, Puerto Rico VA system.  Ms. Martinez-Rivera is a “certified provider of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia and for Cognitive Processing Therapy.”  She is an active advocate for the LGBT community and other minority groups within the VA.  She developed and initiated a grief and bereavement therapy program within the mental health department in San Juan, where it did not exist before.  She is looked to as a go-to person for issues of loss, grief and bereavement.  In addition, she saw the need to offer a group to assist Veterans to learn coping skills during the holidays and which she facilitates.  She approaches her practice from a holistic perspective and it has been very successful with the Veterans with whom she works. 
Abigail is also the President of NASW PR Chapter and works with NASW and the PR VA as a point of contact for both.  She is a mentor and a coach for SW students and is a major voice for SW in the many places where she is active and within the VA.  In Puerto Rico the social workers are not considered independent practitioners as they are in the United States, and she works to have PR social workers recognized for their skills and expertise in working with Veterans within the VA system.
For the past few months Abigail has been without power at her own home.  She drives to work in the dark and she states that she struggles with hope herself, but she states: “I focus on every day what I can do to serve better. At the end of every day when I go home I have a sense of mission fulfilled. … it is the satisfaction of being an instrument of harmonious path of recovery for our Veterans and their families that give me the power to overcome these challenges and my own.” She goes on to say, “I came from a Jewish heritage from both parents, and I am thankful for all of the sacrifices the Veterans have made in the wars and conflict, with special memory of the WWII and recent Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to help the heroes to be healed inside and outside.”  “Even today on my Island, the ones who came to help us were Veterans from the USA, our own Puerto Rican Veterans and active military.” 
She has worked for the VA for 9 years and she is passionate about the work that she does with Veterans.  Her advice to new social workers is to keep to your path of self-knowledge; do not give up; always the storm came to show us how to be even better clinicians. I if you are already the best social worker, keep humble and remember that we are the ones who serve with pride those who served for us. “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” (Gandhi) Congratulations, Abigail!





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