WSF founder Don Soeken recognized as a social work pioneer

Dr. Donald Soeken, founder and Executive Director of the Whistleblower Support fund, has been honored as a Social Work Pioneer by the National Association of Social Workers.  Those selected for the honor “have served as steadfast leaders, and their work has had a ripple effect, collectively impacting millions of people over the years through their advocacy, scholarship, publications, and more. “


The NASW writes:

Dr. Donald Soeken is a social worker with 40 years of professional experience in the multidisciplinary areas of practice, research, and teaching. While working for the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and in charge of evaluating federal employees who were sent for psychiatric fitness for duty exams he noted that most people sent to him were not mentally ill.  In order to change this practice Dr. Soeken risked his career and promotions by showing courage, knowledge, foresight and stamina and protected the rights of his clients in the face of the power of the United States Government.

As a result of his groundbreaking testimony before the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee Dr. Soeken, was instrumental in the passage of landmark congressional legislation that ended the practice  of forcing federal civil servants in the executive branch to take “fitness for duty” psychiatric exams.  He later requested that the  legislative branch should not use these exams. He was able to contact the oversight committee and they also confirmed the problem and stopped the exams in the legislative branch.  He testified at length on Capitol Hill about his own experiences as a counselor to many of those victimized federal employees while continuing to reach the rank of 06 Captain in the USPHS.

Soeken is the first recipient of the Jack Otis Whistleblower Award presented by the Research and Education Fund of NASW. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award for work with persons of integrity from NASW and the Psychiatric Institute Foundation, Mental Health Achievement Award for Legislation in recognition of sustained efforts to improve the mental health of the residents of metropolitan Washington, D.C. He is an expert witness for whistleblowers and also an advocate for those persons who speak out about waste, fraud and abuse of power in the government and industry.

The Whistleblower Support Fund board members congratulate Dr. Soeken and thank the NASW for recognizing the importance of protecting whistleblowers from psychiatric abuse.