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Article

Paul Terrell

Workers' Compensation is a form of social insurance financed and administered by each of the 50 states, the federal government (for federal workers), and the District of Columbia that protects workers and their families from some of the economic consequences of workplace-related accidents and illnesses.

Article

Jean K. Quam

Arthur J. Altmeyer (1891–1972) was an administrator in Washington, DC from 1934 to 1953. He was a leader of social welfare policy and helped design and implement the Social Security Act of 1935.

Article

Larraine M. Edwards

Isaac Max Rubinow (1875–1936) was a consultant to the President's Committee on Economic Security and director of the Jewish Welfare Society of Philadelphia. He led the American social insurance movement and contributed to Jewish American welfare programs.

Article

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership association of professional social workers in the world with nearly 145,000 members. Formed in 1955 by uniting seven predecessor organizations, NASW has a dual mission of protecting and advancing the profession of social work and of advocating for social justice issues. The NASW national office is based in Washington, DC, with chapters in each state, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. There are also separate chapters in New York City and metropolitan Washington, DC, as well as an international chapter for U.S. social workers living abroad.

Article

Between 1950 and 1980, the United States developed a welfare state that in many ways was comparable to those of other advanced industrial nations. Building on its New Deal roots, the Social Security system came to provide a “social wage” to older Americans, people with disability, and the dependents of deceased workers. It created a health-care insurance system for the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. Using the tax system in innovative ways, the government encouraged the expansion of pension and health-care protection for a majority of workers and their families. By 1980, some Americans could argue that their identification as a “laggard” in the field of social provision was no longer justified.

Article

Diana M. DiNitto and David H. Johnson

Social welfare policy may be defined as government’s response to human needs such as food, housing, healthcare, employment, and other necessities. Many contemporary U.S. social welfare policies have roots in the New Deal programs of the 1930s, which were responses to the Great Depression. The civil unrest of the 1960s, the “Great Recession” of 2008, and the COVID-19 pandemic also brought about major policy responses. There are basic philosophical differences in approaches that Americans believe the United States should take to meeting human needs, often described in liberal and conservative perspectives. Social insurance and public assistance programs are major responses to poverty and other needs. Disparities based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other factors may also be addressed through social welfare policies, sometimes in the form of civil rights legislation. Racism and other forms of systemic discrimination, however, continue to prevent many Americans from reaping the benefits that others enjoy. The National Association of Social Workers’ code of ethics calls for social workers’ political involvement. Social workers participate in all aspects of policy processes to improve the biopsychosocial well-being of Americans and people across the globe.

Article

Maryann Syers

Abraham Epstein (1892–1942) was an economist, educator, and writer. He was a leader in the post-World War I movement for passage of social security legislation. In 1927 he founded the American Association for Old Age Security (later the American Association for Social Security).

Article

Eric R. Kingson, Dana Bell, and Sarah Shive

This entry examines why our nation’s Social Security system was built, what it does, and what must be done to maintain and improve this foundational system for current and future generations. After a discussion of the social insurance approach to economic security and its underlying principles and values, the evolution of America’s Social Security system is reviewed—beginning with the enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935, through its incremental development, to the changed politics of Social Security since the mid-1990s. Next, program benefits and financing are described and contemporary challenges and related policy options are identified, in terms of both the program’s projected shortfall and the public’s need for expanded retirement, disability, and survivorship protections. The entry concludes by noting that social workers have an important role to play in shaping Social Security’s future.

Article

Paul A. Abels

Chauncey A. Alexander (1916–2005) was Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers from 1967 to 1982 and founder and president of the First Amendment Foundation. He was instrumental in developing an International Code of Ethics for social workers.

Article

Victoria M. Rizzo, Sojeong Lee, and Rebekah Kukowski

In 1965, Titles XVIII and XIX of the Social Security Act were passed, creating Medicare and Medicaid and laying the foundation for U.S. healthcare policy. Originally, Medicare was created to meet the specific medical needs of adults aged 65 and older. In 2022, individuals with end-stage renal disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and other disabilities may also receive Medicare, regardless of age. Medicaid was established to provide a basic level of medical care to specific categories of people who are poor, including pregnant women, children, and the aged. As of 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states are provided with the opportunity to expand Medicaid to close the coverage gap for public health insurance. This entry provides explanations of Medicaid and Medicare and associated social healthcare programs in the United States. An overview of significant programming developments and trends, future directions, challenges, and controversies as of 2021 are also provided.

Article

Heather A. Walter-McCabe

This article describes the complex healthcare policy and financing systems in the US within a historic and political context for how the US arrived at these systems. It also provides an overview of frameworks useful for articulating how social work may have an increased influence on policies impacting the healthcare system along with specific arenas ripe for social work interventions towards healthcare system improvements. Social workers have the obligation, through the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, and the requisite skills, to participate in the healthcare policy process ensuring that they not only have a place at policy making tables, but that members of communities impacted by these policies have an opportunity to assist in setting the healthcare policy agenda and programs to best serve them.

Article

Cynthia Moniz, Stephen H. Gorin, and Terry Mizrahi

National health care reform in the United States, from its introduction into the public policy agenda at the turn of the 20th century through policy debates and legislative proposals more than a century later, has achieved limited success with universal coverage for health and mental health services. Opposition to government-sponsored health care has always been present. The extent of the opposition has depended on the type of reform proposed and the era in which it occurred. Medicare and Medicaid reform in the 1960s greatly expanded access and coverage for older adults and low income individuals and families. But, the first true effort to reach universal coverage occurred with the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.