NASW Remembers Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Senator Daniel K. Inouye died Monday, December 17, 2012, and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) fondly remembers him as the first Japanese American elected to Congress, the first Congressman representing Hawaii, the second longest serving Senator in U.S. history, a highly decorated World War II Veteran, and a longtime friend to the profession of social work. According to the New York Times, Senator Inouye supported organized labor, consumer protections, abortion rights, and education and environmental protections.

Senator Inouye was born on September 7, 1924. According to the Washington Post, Senator Inouye died at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda at the age of 88. Since 2009, Senator Inouye served as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and since 2010 as the Senate’s President Pro Tempore. Senator Inouye was a Medal of Honor recipient and received numerous military decorations including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart. Senator Inouye graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1950 and George Washington University’s law school in 1952.

Senator Inouye was a strong supporter of the social work profession and NASW. He helped to support federal legislation that promoted social work in health and mental health settings including within the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs. He championed building social work research capacity, encouraging the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and especially the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to support and strengthen the social work research enterprise, and to highlight the findings from social work research. He introduced NASW-supported single payer health care reform legislation in the early 1990s, and introduced legislation to create a National Center (or Office) for Social Work Research at NIH in each Congress since the 105th Congress.


  1. For all of our talk about service and justice, Senator Inouye stands as a pilar of strength and focus. Senator Inouye should also be recognized for his selfless devotion to this country even at a time when the nation had officially labeled him as an “enemy alien.” Young Danial Inouye fought for the right to fight for this nation. And then fought bravely at great peril to his own life. Even when denied full recognition for his heroic actions in combat, he continued to serve this nation. (His Congrssional Medal of Honor was only awarded in 1996, 52 years after the actions for which it was awarded.)His, was a life to be modeled. We all owe a debt of gratitude to this great American.

  2. When I was a Capitol Hill staffer in Wash DC in the 1980’s I recall hearing how Inouye’s office was the driving force behind the federal government including social workers as mental health providers. He was a lone voice in the Senate. I got the sense that without him Medicare would not have included social workers as providers nor would the department of defense. It just wasn’t on their radar. He was the right person at the right time. Without him there may have never been such independent practice social work. We would all be looking for phd psychologists and MD s to sign off on our work.

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