News from the Hill – September 2011

Sep 15, 2011

NASW Sends Letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

NASW recently sent a letter to the recently appointed 12 members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction who will make recommendations on ways to increase revenues while reducing the deficit.  The Super Committee will determine which programs, both military and domestic, that will be included in a total of up to $1.5 trillion in cuts.

In the letter to the Super Committee, NASW urges the members to protect America’s most vulnerable families.  We know that there is a lot of pressure to cut programs, but NASW ask you to also look at the revenue side of the equation.  NASW supports revenue increases and cuts to programs that do not impact low/moderate-income people. In addition, NASW urges the Super Committee to submit recommendations that include sufficient revenue increases to reduce the deficit while preserving our ability to create jobs, rebuild the economy, and protect vulnerable people from the loss of vital services.


The first meeting took place on September 8 where they made opening remarks and voted on rules. NASW has closely monitored the individuals chosen to serve and will follow the negotiations.  It’s possible that the very nature of entitlement programs could be reworked, along with large portions of the U.S. Tax Code.

Here are the six Republicans chosen, followed by their voting record from NASW’s 2009-2010 legislative scorecard: Reps. Jeb Hensarling (TX-5, 10%), Dave Camp (MI-4, 10%) and Fred Upton (MI-6, 30%); Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ, 0%), Pat Toomey (R-PA, Not in Congress in 2009-2010) and Rob Portman (R-OH, Not in Congress 2009-2010).


Among the Democrats, House Minority Leader Pelosi selected Rep. James Clyburn (SC-6), Xavier Beccera (CA-31), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-8), all of whom voted 100% on NASW’s issues throughout 2009-2010.  Senate Majority Leader Reid has tapped Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA, 100%), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 100%), and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT, 83%).


Political Climate

Congress returned to Washington after Labor Day.  The Super Committee met on September 8 to discuss a wide range of spending cuts.  President Obama presented a new jobs plan, which was reasonably well-received on both sides of the aisle as Speaker of the House John Boehner praised several aspects.  Republican competition for the Presidential nomination has continued in full force; Mitt Romney and Rick Perry seemed to share the spotlight during the most recent debate.  As part of that process, states are competing for the important early stages of the nominating process, and the stage could be set for primaries and caucuses occurring much earlier than usual.


As a result of these events, all the policy work that is done by both Congress and the White House is sure to have political implications that resonate through November 2012.  President Obama will base his growing reelection effort on policy achievements that emerge from the next few months.


While September may seem like a continuation of the usual policy work in the short term, this month will help craft the large scale political discourse in the long term.


Congressional Social Work Caucus Growing

The Congressional Social Work Caucus (CSWC) has already garnered 56 bipartisan members. Is your Representative a member of this important caucus that creates a platform on Capitol Hill to represent the interests of social workers throughout the United States. The CSWC consists of social worker Members of Congress and those who support the social work profession and society’s social safety net. If your Representative is not a member, contact them today and ask them to join and stand up for our profession and the clients we serve.

Don’t forget to contact your Representative and Senators and ask them to support to Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (HR1106/S686)!

NASW Comments on HHS Disparities Data Collection Standards

On August 1, NASW submitted a letter commenting on the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Proposed Data Collection Standards for Race, Ethnicity, Primary Language, Sex and Disability Status as directed by a provision in the Affordable Care Act.   As proposed, the data standards will apply to self-reported information in all national population health surveys.  In the letter, NASW requests that the standards define lesbian/gay/bisexual/transsexual (LGBT), to more accurately capture primary language information, and to broaden the definition of “disability.”  In addition, the letter recommended that the data collection standards to


  • Include questions that address socioeconomic status and geographic region
  • Include questions to address behavioral, cognitive, mental, and physical ability
  • Increase data collection research, and
  • Expand data collection on LGBT populations


Addressing cultural diversity, human rights, disparities and social and economic justice constitutes a core component of the social work curriculum and practice. NASW believes that the above recommendations will help the equitable delivery of health services for all people regardless of ability, age, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or physical, mental, and cognitive ability.


Click here to view the entire NASW comments.


NASW Joins LCCR on 9/11 Statement of Principles

NASW joined over 70 religious, racial, ethnic, and civil and human rights organizations on a 9/11 Statement of Principles to remember the victims of 9/11.  In honoring their memory, the letter states the groups are “rededicating ourselves to core principles as set forth in this statement that reaffirm our unity of purpose as a nation, the resilience of our democracy, and our respect for fundamental freedoms.” 


CMS Proposals to Cover Annual Screenings for Alcohol Misuse and Depression

NASW join the Coalition for Whole Health, a broad coalition of national organizations in the mental health and substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery communities, in a letter to comment on the CMS proposals to cover annual screenings for alcohol misuse and depression for adult Medicare beneficiaries.  The following recommendations were included in the letter.


  • · CMS should cover depression and alcohol misuse screenings and interventions that occur in any appropriate setting, not just primary care settings, furnished by any qualified practitioner, not limited to primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, or physician assistants.
  • · Depression and alcohol misuse screenings should not be limited to once annually.  Screenings should be provided at every opportunity or whenever appropriate.
  • · CMS should further expand Medicare preventive services to include screening and intervention for illicit and prescription drug misuse and screening for additional mental health related conditions.


NASW believes that clinical social workers should be primary providers in primary care settings to provide mental health services especially for Medicare beneficiaries who have a positive screen for depression and substance use.  In addition, clinical social workers could also assist the primary care physician in administering and interpreting these screens.  NASW will continue its advocacy in promoting the role of clinical social workers as CMS reviews proposals to cover screening and behavioral counseling interventions to reduce alcohol misuse and screening for depression as Medicare preventive services.


4th Circuit Court Rules in Favor of ACA

On September 8, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The decision marks the second victory for health reform in a federal appeals court. Previously, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found the Affordable Care Act constitutional.  However, one other appeals court ruling was against the law.  This means that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately take up the case. The lawsuits have centered on the law’s individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance beginning in 2014.

According to a White House blog, many Americans are already benefiting from the law including parents with a child with a preexisting condition, women getting mammograms with no out of pocket cost, seniors saving thousands of dollars on their prescription drugs and young adults now getting covered on their parent’s plan.  NASW supports the Affordable Care Act and has advocated for its implementation.  In addition, NASW’s Legal Defense Fund filed briefs in support of the legislation.

Advocacy Blog Roundup

Affordable Care Act 101 Conference Call

Super Committee Members Selected

Department of Education Webinar

Conference Call to Discuss Women’s Access to Needed Care and Services

NASW Supports Senator & Social Worker Debbie Stabenow’s Policy Record


Advocacy Alert Roundup

Super Committee: Contact your Representative and Senators

Urge Your Representative to Reauthorize the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program

TANF: Ask Your Representative to Support the Supplemental Grants Extension Act

Debt Ceiling and Budget Cuts

NASW Concerned about Debt Ceiling Talk, Cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Pell Grants, and Social Security

Ask Your Representative to Join the Congressional Social Work Caucus

Contact Your Senators and Representative in Tennessee about the Coalition to Control Spending with Care


Advocacy Listserv Activity

From July 1 – September 12, 2011, 2,599 activists sent 8,269 advocacy messages to Congress through Capwiz. The most active alerts were about protecting low/moderate income people with the debt debate and the super committee. Thanks to all of you who took the time to take action!

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