The more personal your contact with your elected officials, the more effective it will be. Although a personal discussion with a member of Congress is positive, a meeting or telephone conversation with one of his or her staff is just as valuable. You can easily contact your member of Congress by:
- Writing a letter: Letters are an important and useful way to tell your legislator how you feel about an issue, and a personal letter is much more effective than a form letter or postcard. Short, handwritten letters are best and should always include specific information about the action you want your member of Congress to take. When writing a letter, make sure to include your full address so that he or she will know where in the district you live. However, because mail to Congress may take time, you should also fax the handwritten letter in addition to sending it via mail. This will ensure that your issue reaches your lawmaker’s desk in a timely fashion.
- Making a phone call: You can contact your legislator via the American Medical Association Grassroots Hotline at (800) 833-6354. You’ll be asked to enter your zip code, and then you’ll be transferred to your Congress member’s office. Because members of Congress are usually busy, ask to speak to the healthcare staff when you make this call. Make sure you are up to date on the subject at hand and are clear about your support or opposition of the issue. If you are planning a visit, this is also the time to set up a meeting.
- Meeting with your member of Congress: This is the most effective method of lobbying. You can organize a meeting in your district or in Washington, D.C. with your elected officials—or join the ACR’s Advocates for Arthritis event held each spring. Make sure you schedule an appointment with him or her in advance and have a specific set of issues to discuss, as well as an opinion on each issue.
Remember that the summer recess is for Congress, not for your Congress members. August recess (Friday, July 31 through Tuesday, September 8) is the perfect time to reach out to your legislators. Many members of Congress hold town hall meetings during this time and are usually more accessible than when they are in Washington, D.C. A local meeting is a valuable tool in building a relationship with your legislator. This month offers a great opportunity for you to discuss issues of importance to rheumatology professionals.