News from the Hill – April 2009

Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 795/S. 686) reintroduced in both chambers of Congress

The Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 795/ S. 686) was recently reintroduced in both chambers by Rep. Towns and Senator Mikulski. The legislation retains the same focus, however we worked with the National Association of Black Social Workers, Clinical Social Work Association, and Dr. Height to implement several changes to strengthen the bill. These included an enhanced Social Work Reinvestment Commission to complete an expanded study, inclusive demonstration programs to include Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions, and a broader diversity component. The legislation continues to address the future of the profession through the Social Work Reinvestment Commission and the “on-the-ground” realities experienced by professional social workers through demonstration programs. Now that both bills have been reintroduced, it is critical for social workers and allies across this nation to show their support for their profession. Contact your Representative and Senators today to make this bill a reality.

Military and Veterans Issues

Give an Hour

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is increasing its leadership regarding the complex and changing face of the nation’s military and veterans and as such, increasing organizational advocacy on behalf of those who are serving and who have served our nation in a military capacity. An important first step occurred through NASW’s endorsement of Give an Hour, a nonprofit organization that is developing a national network of volunteers to collaborate with military and veterans service systems to assist members of the military, veterans and their families in receiving behavioral health counseling and information services. In addition to direct counseling, volunteers give presentations, provide consultation, teach skills, offer support, and demystify mental health care for those who serve as well as those who seek to support our troops.” NASW is asking our members who are licensed clinicians and licensed clinical social workers nationwide to participate in this important effort

NASW is also advocating for the following federal legislation, which honors and protects our service men and women:

Post Deployment Health Assessment Act of 2009 (S. 711)

The mental health needs of the 1.64 million troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to make headlines. Over 18 percent of troops who have served in these areas, nearly 300,000 troops, have symptoms of post traumatic stress (PTSD) or major depression. Another 19 percent have experienced a possible traumatic brain injury. Further, only 53 percent of service members with PTSD or depression sought help over the past year. The suicide rate among our military is at its highest point in 26 years, and our male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as civilians. Additionally, the stigma long present in the military creates a situation where mental health needs are not adequately tended to by professionals.

Senator Max Baucus recently introduced S. 711 to implement a mental health screening program throughout the military. This legislation is based on the premier program in the country for caring for Montana National Guard members suffering from PTSD, which was extraordinarily successful. S. 711 will require mental health screenings before deployment, upon return home, and every six months for two years. This basic and effective program will help safeguard the mental health of our entire military. Contact your Senators today in support of this important legislation!

Military Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Response Act (H.R. 840)

On Feb. 3, 2009, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) reintroduced the Military Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Response Act (H.R.840). The bill seeks to reduce violence against military personnel and their families by enhancing programs of prevention and deterrence, improving victim services, and strengthening provisions for prosecution of assailants.

Women who courageously serve in our armed forces must deal with the possibility of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape during their service. One study noted that sexual assault in the military is three to ten times more prevalent than in the general population. Nearly one-third of a nationwide sample of female veterans who sought health care through the VA said they experienced rape or attempted rape during their service.

This legislation is not specific to women, as men also risk sexual assault in the military. Every service member deserves full rights and protections from abuse, and this legislation ensures that this occurs. For more information and to advocate for this legislation please click here.

Action Heats Up on Health Care Reform

Congress returned from spring recess on April 21, and immediately resumed work on health care reform legislation. For months the conversation in Congress focused on principles, see NASW’s response, but now more serious negotiations are occurring. Congressional leaders stepped up the timetable to draft legislation during May and June and a consensus bill is planned on the House and Senate floor in July. At this time bill language is not written, but the outlines of the Senate and House proposals are taking shape. NASW is working to ensure adoption of a comprehensive reform proposal that recognizes the full scope of social work practice. Staff is currently working on a separate Web page devoted to health care reform efforts.

NASW Launches Loan Forgiveness Web Page for Members

NASW chapters and national lobbied for and saw passage of a variety of loan forgiveness provisions in the past couple of years. These efforts were part of ongoing work to improve working conditions, salaries, and other benefits for members of the profession and to ensure that consumers have access to qualified social work professionals. NASW has compiled information on loan forgiveness at the state and national levels and created a Web site providing the most up-to-date information.

House Passes Hate Crimes Legislation

Rep. John Conyers introduced H.R. 1913, Hate Crimes, on April 2, 2009. You can view the bill here. The purpose of this legislation is to provide Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes. This legislation has long been a priority and NASW has worked in coalition for passage of the legislation. The bill passed the House on April 29, by a vote of 249-175. See the vote here. Now the bill will go to the Senate for consideration.

Budget Resolution Passes House and Senate

Congress passed the budget resolution for FY 2010, beginning October 1, 2009. The resolution had been in a House/Senate conference committee.  On April 29, the House voted 232 to 193 and the Senate voted 53 to 43 to pass the conference report. The resolution is essentially a budget blueprint.  It was based upon the budget request of President Obama, with Congress making changes to that request.  The President does not sign this resolution, but he has expressed support for it.  The next step is for  Congress to introduce appropriations legislation to actually fund the approved budget resolution.  Appropriations bills are expected to begin consideration in June.

Calling all Women to Go Run 2009!

The White House Project has training sessions available for women who want to run for office. To see if there is a session near you, visit their Web site and apply today. Registration is $150 but there are scholarships available. The training is over a weekend. This is important because women do not often consider running, unless someone asks them. The United States is ranked low among nations for women in elected office, which means their voices are not at the “table” making important policy decisions.

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