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Communicating With Congress

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:

  1. State your purpose in the first paragraph.
  2. If the letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it accordingly, e.g., House bill: H.R.____, Senate bill: S. ____.
  3. 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.
  4. Address only one issue in each letter and try to keep the letter to one page.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Do not give the impression that you are speaking for an organization unless you are authorized to do so.
  8. Know the committees on which your legislators serve and indicate in the letter if the bill is being brought before those committees.
  9. Timing is important. Try to express your opinion on a bill when it is in committee.
  10. Sign your name and include any other credentials you may have (e.g. PhD, DABCC, FAACC, etc.)
  11. Be sure your correct address is on the letter and the envelope.
  12. Edit carefully. Invite a friend or colleague to read your letter and provide feedback.
  13. 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:

  1. Clearly identify yourself and your issue so that you are directed to the appropriate staff person.
  2. If you know a staff member, ask for that person.
  3. Briefly state what you want the legislator to do, and refer to previous correspondence you may have had with the legislator.
  4. Ask the legislator's staff to respond to your request and to update you on the outcome of the issue.
  5. Make a note of the name of the person you spoke with and direct your future communication to this person.