Letters to the Editor (September 2013)

Helping military goes beyond service members

This is written in response to Douglas Braun’s letter “Not all social workers bound to help military.”

It may seem reasonable to expect the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to address the health needs of military members and veterans through the military health care system and VA medical centers, community based clinics and Vet centers. But “helping the military” goes well beyond meeting the needs of those who have volunteered to serve their country in this way.

When you add to those numbers, the immediate and extended family members, those who leave the military prior to retirement and are no longer eligible for military health care, friends, neighbors, and employers whose lives are also impacted by an individual’s military service, the demand for social work support in the local community grows exponentially.

It is these individuals with no access to care from the DoD or VA — along with those who are eligible for DoD or VA services but are geographically isolated or prefer to access care outside those systems — who will be turning to their local community for support if they need it.

Members of our profession, delivering all types of social work services, should be able to recognize the next client whose needs may have a direct or indirect connection to military service and to address those needs directly or through referral to someone they know is prepared to respond.

There are several references to the NASW Code of Ethics that seem relevant: the ethical principles of helping people in need and addressing social problems, respect for the inherent dignity and worth of the person, and practicing within areas of competence; and the ethical standards that call for commitment to clients, competence in provision of services, a basic understanding of a client’s culture, and the avoidance of conflicts of interest.

In the same way that it is natural for social workers to have an affinity for working with some populations, it is also natural for us to have a preference not to work with others.

Whether a social worker chooses to provide direct support to this or any other special population, it is every social worker’s ethical responsibility to provide competent care or make a referral to a social worker who is prepared to meet their needs.

Judith Dekle, LCSW, ACSW
Alexandria, Va.

Shelter animals need social workers’ help, too

Thank you for publishing your article about “Veterinary Social Work.” I attended the conference in 2011, and it was wonderful to be surrounded by like-minded individuals.

I was in the process of writing a book on surviving the loss of a pet, and received tremendous support from my fellow social workers as well as veterinarians.

Secondary to writing my book, I became involved in animal “rescue.” The situation in our country with the treatment (rather mistreatment) of animals that end up in shelters is horrendous. Prior to my involvement with rescue, I had no idea of the fate of shelter animals.

I think as social workers it would be wonderful if we could organize to call attention to the changes that need to be made to the rescue of the “strays” and owner surrenders that end up in overcrowded shelters.

Many people do not want to know about the fate of shelter animals, and that is part of the problem. We need to inform and educate the public. As social workers, I believe we could do so if we work together.

I would very much like to hear from anyone who has an interest in this very serious issue. For the last two years I have attended a conference put on by the law school at the University of North Carolina. It is sponsored by the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, a division, I believe, of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

I think it would be wonderful if more social work schools could get involved with the psychosocial aspects of animal rescue. Some days are very painful for those of us involved, and many “drop out” because of the overwhelming pain involved. In addition, as social workers, we need to start speaking out for so many helpless animals whose lives are taken in less than a humane way and because of no fault of their own.

Gael J. Ross, LCSW
Durham, N.C.

NASW News article lacks people-first terminology

It is unfortunate that your staff reporter chose to describe Temple Grandin as “an autistic woman” in the July 2013 report in NASW News titled, “Summit examines social work roles with animals.”

As the professional organization representing the nation’s social workers, NASW should be a leader in the use of people-first terminology and avoid defining people by their disability.

Describing Temple Grandin as a woman with autism would have been much more respectful.

Pauline Jivanjee, LMSW, PhD
Newberg, Ore.