Your Member of Congress Is Leaving. What Now?

You’ve spent the last few months (or maybe even years) building a relationship with your Members of Congress. You’ve dedicated time and resources to educate and gain their support on complex rehab technology (CRT) issues that matter to you.

But now they’re leaving office. Whether they’re retiring, running for another office, or didn’t win their primary, you can still be prepared for what comes next.

Here’s where to begin if one of your Members of Congress leaves office.

Don’t Panic

Unless your current Member is leaving under questionable circumstances, he or she will complete the term in office. Use the time between now and December to continue to follow up with your contacts to ask that they sign on to legislation you’re asking support for. Members will still be voting until the end of the year, so it’s not a waste of time to keep reaching out. If they’ve already signed on, thank them again for their support and ask them to help get legislation passed before they leave.

Don’t Write Off Your Influence

Keep communicating with the Health Legislative Assistant (HLA) or other policy staff in your Member’s office. Though they may not be working on behalf of your district or state in the next session, it’s very possible they’ll be transitioning to another office or advisory position, and they’ll be taking their understanding of CRT along with them. In that case, you’ve already set the stage for the next advocate who will be reaching out to them to protect CRT, or you will have reached an office that might not have an active CRT advocate. See yourself as a teacher sending your graduates off into the world.

Don’t Check Out

Just because your Member is leaving doesn’t mean you can leave, too. Start reading about up-and-coming candidates on both sides of the aisle. Sign up for their e-mails or attend an event where they’ll be speaking about their platforms to understand their positions on issues such as healthcare and disability rights. Take some time to learn about where they’ll be focusing their time and effort once in office.

Don’t Forget to Vote

If you’ve been following campaigns and determining which candidates best support your own values and concerns, then you’re perfectly poised to decide who you’d like to see representing your district or state on Capitol Hill for the next few years. Mark your calendar for election day and check online to find the nearest location to cast your ballot. Most employers will allow a long lunch, and most polling stations are open until later in the evening so that people can get there.

Don’t Be Shy

Once your new Member takes office, it will take some time for him or her to assemble the policy team. You can visit the Member’s Web site and submit a general contact form, or e-mail to introduce yourself and CRT. You may just get a generic response, but it will open the door for you to get more acquainted later on. A quick phone call to Members’ D.C. offices about a month after the session begins will provide you with the name and e-mail of your new HLA contact. Since you already learned about their position on healthcare and disability-related issues during their campaign, you’re ready to begin an informed discussion about CRT legislation and why you’d like to have the Member’s support.

We often say advocating for CRT is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s an ongoing process and one that requires persistence and flexibility. A change in your Member of Congress is a bump in the road, but not something to stop our overall progress. You’ve done a good job educating them on the need for individuals to have access to the unique medical equipment that allows them to maintain their health, their independence, and their quality of life. That’s something you can be proud of and something that can motivate you to continue the work with your new Member and staff as well.

For educational materials, position papers, and more CRT information to send to your Members of Congress, visit www.access2crt.org or contact mlee@ncart.us.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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