Together, We Make the World Better


By Barbara Bedney, PhD, MSW

Barbara Bedney

I have always been drawn to the power of social work. We are more than 700,000 strong in the U.S. and have a unique understanding of human behavior in the social environment; highly trained relationship-building and assessment skills; social justice priorities; and specialized focus on social determinants of health. I’ve always known how vital we are to securing the health and well-being of individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole.

I’m honored to be a part of our profession, and excited to engage with all of you through this column. My goal is to share with you the activities our association engages in to strengthen and support our professional workforce, and I hope many of you will participate in these endeavors. Because today, even with all of our strengths and skills, we also have unprecedented challenges.

We face low reimbursement and pay-equity issues; recruitment and retention issues; a student loan debt crisis; challenges and opportunities associated with telehealth, AI and interstate practice; and even some efforts to criminalize our field altogether. We have a lot of work to do on all of these issues. But that’s where the power of NASW comes into play.

As one association, our national office and 55 chapters promote high-quality social work practice; engage in ongoing professional development; and advocate on behalf of the profession. We provided extensive guidance on the development of the Model Social Work Interstate Compact Bill, which will expand opportunities for interstate practice. We continue to advocate for the broadening of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to include social workers who do not currently qualify for the program.

In September, we submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommending that clinical social workers be allowed to receive Medicare reimbursement for Health Behavior Assessment and Intervention services. We are pleased that CMS included that provision in the 2024 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule—a huge win for the profession! Our efforts haven’t stopped there, however, and we continue to advocate for increased reimbursement for social workers.

At the same time, our standards of practice serve as a critical resource for the profession, as do our issue briefs, tips and tools, and other resources on everything from clinical practice to public policy to social justice. Our online CE Institute includes hundreds of courses social workers can use to enhance their skills, and our Specialty Practice Sections, conferences, journals, networking opportunities, ethics resources, and chapter events offer unlimited opportunities for social workers to keep abreast of the latest trends and advance the profession as a whole.

Of course we couldn’t do any of this without our members. Whether it’s volunteering on our committees or coming to Washington to advocate on Capitol Hill, you are our greatest resource, embodying the vision, leadership and determination upon which our profession was founded. As we navigate together through uncertain times, those assets will be called upon more than ever, and I have never been more confident in our collective ability to use them to lead to a healthier, stronger future.

Thank you to all of you for everything you do on behalf of NASW and this most wonderful of professions. I hope to meet many of you at our national conference in June.

Barbara Bedney is chief of programs at NASW. She can be reached at

cover of winter 2024 issue

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