Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Hill & Help for Vets/Caregivers

Dear Friends,

     As you know, a part of what VeteranCaregiver does is to contact Congressmen and Senator staff liaisons for Veterans Issues on your behalf, or to start the conversation for a specific issue.  As a constituent (a voting member of your district or state), your state's Congressman or Senator will open a case file and try to assist with the challenge you've identified to them.  There are many kinds of inquiries, but I will just outline the simplest measures to follow in this blog because they've come up recently and we want you to be most effective with your limited time.

     Here are some facts that you should know that will help you:

  • Identify your legislators by using the Tell My Politician feature on VCG; obtain the phone number
  • CALL the Washington, DC Office first and state your need
  • FAX a follow-up letter to the office and also email a response to summarize your request
  • Do not mail letters, as the security precautions for snail mail will delay your inquiry by up to 6 weeks
  • If asked to sign releases, ask what the release is for?  In most cases, you do NOT need to release your medical records in order to have them assist you.  Be prudent, but make the best decision possible to obtain what you need.
  • If you do not hear back within a reasonable time, CALL again; you must remain persistent
     If you support a legislator's efforts on a particular bill or effort identified in a press release (and available on VCG in Hill Notes or the Hearings links), DO write them by email and also on their Facebook pages; social media is used widely to read the "political wind" and to calculate public opinion.

     Know that if you send inquiries to legislators OUTSIDE of your state, that by "professional courtesy", that office will simply send on your inquiry to the Committee staffer for YOUR state area, and you will likely NOT receive a response.  Just this morning, I spoke with a high-ranking member's office about a non-response to one of our Vets/Caregivers, and was told that "we can't respond to all the emails".  As you can imagine, most people receive high volume email, so when you don't hear from them, place a CALL; it will be answered and your issue temporarily moved to the top of the pile.  You will then hear what they have done on your behalf.

     This sounds a great deal like working with the agencies, I know, but please know that these folks are elected and sworn to serve YOU, the constituent.  If you can make the time to call, document, and follow-up, chances are very good that you will receive help.  Make friends with the Veterans Liaison staffer; it's well worth the effort.

     Finally, know that we will continue to advocate for you when the load is just too much - this is a case of multiple contacts, persistence, warmth, caring and follow-up.  Hope this helps some of you just a little bit!  Washington is a world of its own.


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