Stan Remer, LCSW, AVASW’s Congressional and Legislative Liaison represented AVASW in the recent Advocacy Training and Advocacy Day activities sponsored by NASW. This national activity allowed for direct contact via zoom conference calls with both local congressional representatives and the Senators from each state.
Nationally, there were over 180 meetings scheduled with most involving legislative staff, however, about 10 congresspersons also participated. The goal of this initiative was to drive legislation for the social work profession and educate congresspersons.
There were three pieces of priority legislation that was focused on as well as Telehealth.
S. 870/HR 2035 – Improving Access to Mental Health Act
The proposed bill has three components:
Access by Medicare beneficiaries in skilled nursing homes to clinical social work (CSW)
Access by Medicare beneficiaries in other settings to CSW services
Increasing reimbursement for CSW’s from 75% to 85% of the physician pay schedule
It is noted that SNF residents have a need for access for services for anxiety and depression. Currently there is a 120:1 ratio of medical social workers to residents, but the social worker may not be trained by social work education. The need for social work education for these social work positions in SNF’s was strongly emphasized on the conference calls. It was noted that this legislation will be very beneficial for rural areas, densely populated urban areas, and other places with many Medicare beneficiaries.
S.2046/HR 3862 Community-Based Response Act
This bill is being introduced by a social worker, Rep. Karen Bass in the House, and Senator Kris Van Holland in the Senate. This bill will provide communities the ability to implement an emergence service response option when there may NOT be a need for law enforcement. Communities may use grant funding (i.e., 9-1-1 emergency calls can be referred to a clinical social worker or other mental health provider when law enforcement may not be needed)
S.1 For the People Act
This bill will ensure increased access to the ballot box by various means such as same day voter registration, online voter registration, and early voting.
Medicare Telehealth Permanency
This proposal was not connected to a specific bill. Discussion covered this need for flexibility that current exists with COVID to continue. AVASW liaison Remer discussed the use of the DVA with Telehealth for over 20 years of history and its great value for rural veterans in receiving care when transportation is an issue.
In this Congressional Social Work Advocacy Day activities there was an opportunity to promote issues and concerns related to social work that are now being considered in Congress. Most states and congressional districts participated. As a Virginia resident, the AVASW representative participated in a local congressional district call and calls with the two Senators.
In the two Senator calls there were five social workers on the call and the legislative aide from the Senators office. Two or 20% of the social workers on the call were from the DVA.
The AVASW Congressional Liaison took the opportunity to discuss DVA social work-related issues and bills such as two bills related to suicide prevention in the VA and the need for standardization of training when care of provided by a non-VA clinical provider to veterans.
Remer as AVASW’s Congressional and Legislative Liaison also is part of the NASW Advocacy LISTSERV and works conjointly with NASW on concerns that relate to social work and DVA.