NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Roger Cummings (1910-1967)
As the Director of Social Work Service for the Veterans Administration (1949-1965) Cummings was instrumental in developing the concept of clinical social work. With his vision, the services of psychiatric and medical social workers within the VA were integrated. The VA Program then became the model for practice in other health and mental health settings. After retirement from the Veterans Administration, Cummings was appointed as Special Assistant to the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (1965 to 1967). In this position he was able to influence policies related to retirement and disability insurance coverage.
Cummings was born in Canada and later moved with his parents to the United States. He received a bachelors degree from the University of Minnesota in 1932 and his MSW from the University of Chicago School of Service Administration in 1936. Prior to his service in the Navy during WWII (1944-46), he was a probation officer in Washington, DC; taught at the University of Chicago; and worked in the personnel division of the Minnesota State Welfare Department. In 1946 he joined the VA as an Area Chief of the Social Work Service and Director of Social Work Service for the VA in 1949. Along with his work in the VA, he was active in the establishment of both the National Association of Social Work and the Council of Social Work Education. He was the first non-dean to become President of the Council of Social Work Education.
In 1965 Roger Cummings was given an outstanding achievement award by the University of Minnesota "as a token of high esteem and in recognition of noted professional attainment." This award cited his long time record as a public servant in state and national government, his creative innovation of the concept of clinical social work, his outstanding contribution to the welfare of veterans, and his presidency of the Council of Social Work Education as all worthy of special commendation. Roger Cummings died soon after his retirement from the Social Security Administration.