Brenda F. Towner
United States Army Sergeant Major Academy
Class 65 SGM Chu/Mr. Jenkins
May 20, 2015
Officers and non-commissioned officers are not aware of the existence of social workers in the various branches of the military. They are not aware of the variety of social work services provided by these individuals. Social workers served the military during World War I. From this beginning in 1918 through 1945, the U. S. Army depended on enlisted social workers for a range of services. In 1945, the social workers integrated commissioned officer status in the U.S. Army.
Social Workers in the Military
During the past decade, the numbers of social workers in the military have fluctuated and are now at a low. Though the numbers are low, all branches of the military still use social workers in various roles. The first social worker began working on 1 September 1918 at the U.S. Army General Hospital Number 30 at Plattsburgh, New York (Harris, 1999). Currently, there are over 1,000 social workers employed by the U. S. Armed Forces. Social workers are an integral part of the Armed Forces. The social work professionals’ concerns of ethical dilemmas have been a long traditional issue in the Armed Forces. Identifying and resolving ethical dilemmas, including education for the undergraduate and graduate levels is the cornerstone of the social work profession. The purpose of this paper is three-fold. To make people aware of and to discuss these ethical dilemmas and the unique military factors that help to create these ethical dilemmas. Second is putting out an outline for the resolution of these ethical dilemmas. Finally, to discuss the implications of these dilemmas for professional military education (PME) at all levels. The specific focus of this paper is to gain an understanding of the ethical dilemmas and to appreciate the unique common ethical dilemmas the social workers repeatedly face.
Social Work Ethical Dilemmas Ethical dilemmas are not new and are not unique to military social workers. Historically, social work in all occupational settings faces ethical dilemmas on a regular basis. Earlier known ways to formulate how to deal with ethical dilemmas tracked to 1920's attributed to Mary Richmond (Pumphrey, 1959). Though the bureaucratic and legalistic concerns of these dilemmas have changed through times, documented sources concerning social workers still confronted with complex ethical dilemmas, to include social workers in the military. Ethical dilemmas are not only in the social work realm.
It concerns all professionals; it does not matter what profession, they still face ethical dilemmas. As it happens, through time many professions (i.e. social work, law, law enforcement, medical field, armed forces, etc.) develop ways of handling various ethical dilemmas that are unique to their expertise. Developing a code of ethics to resolve ethical dilemmas is key to organizing and recognizing the profession in a more adverse society. One of the major attributes of any profession is the development and implementation of a code of ethics.
The concluding section of the code of ethics incorporates distinct ethical standards for the social workers to perform and to provide a basis for adjudication (NASW, 1996). Three standards of concerns are; social workers' ethical responsibilities to clients, social workers' ethical responsibilities to colleagues, and the social workers' ethical responsibilities in practice settings. Final three standards of concerns are; social workers' ethical responsibilities as professionals, social workers' ethical responsibilities to the social work profession, and social workers' ethical responsibilities to the broader society. Later in this paper, we will refer to these values, principles, and ethical standards when discussing the exclusive and common ethical dilemmas encountered by the military,