How a Congressional Office Operates
A congressional office staff usually consists of an administrative assistant or chief of staff, several legislative assistants (including a legislative director), a personal scheduler, a press secretary, several legislative correspondents who respond to the mail, and various other staff.
The primary point of contact for laboratory-related issues is generally a legislative assistant who handles health affairs. Legislative assistants monitor legislation, advise the member of Congress, address constituent concerns, research issues for the member, etc.
Writing to a Member of Congress
Writing a letter or sending an email is a popular method of communication with congressional offices. Feel free to use AACC's online platform to send a customizable e-letter, or write a personalized letter using these guidelines to improve the effectiveness of your message:
- State your purpose in the first paragraph.
- If the letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it accordingly, e.g., House bill: H.R.____, Senate bill: S. ____.
- Be courteous, but to the point. Include key information and use real-life examples to support your position. Describe your organization and the patient population you serve.
- Address only one issue in each letter and try to keep the letter to one page.
- Frame your message in terms of local effect. Hearing how an issue affects the community's healthcare professionals, facilities, patients, and other constituents will have a greater impact on the legislator.
- Be constructive. If the legislation deals with a problem you agree exists, but you think the bill is the wrong approach, explain what you believe to be the right approach.
- Do not give the impression that you are speaking for an organization unless you are authorized to do so.
- Know the committees on which your legislators serve and indicate in the letter if the bill is being brought before those committees.
- Timing is important. Try to express your opinion on a bill when it is in committee.
- Sign your name and include any other credentials you may have (e.g. PhD, DABCC, FAACC, etc.)
- Be sure your correct address is on the letter and the envelope.
- Edit carefully. Invite a friend or colleague to read your letter and provide feedback.
- Keep a copy of all letters that you send.
Calling a Congressional Office
Calls can be placed to your legislator's Washington, D.C., office and should be used to deliver a brief, concise message or to request specific information. When calling, be sure to do the following:
- Clearly identify yourself and your issue so that you are directed to the appropriate staff person.
- If you know a staff member, ask for that person.
- Briefly state what you want the legislator to do, and refer to previous correspondence you may have had with the legislator.
- Ask the legislator's staff to respond to your request and to update you on the outcome of the issue.
- Make a note of the name of the person you spoke with and direct your future communication to this person.