Capitol Hill Report: Sending an Email to Congress - Is It Worth It?

August 24, 2009

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By Mike Amery, Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs, (202) 349-4299, mamery@aan.com

The mission of the Academy is to be "indispensable to its members." One way the Academy fulfills this mission is by representing of neurology in the halls of Congress. Capitol Hill Report presents regular updates on legislative action and how the AAN ensures that the voice of neurology is heard on Capitol Hill. The Academy's legislative counsel in Washington, DC, Mike Amery, offers weekly updates on advocacy for neurology and neurologic concerns.

With Congress in recess, I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about how a congressional office responds when they receive a constituent's letter.

Since 2002, the Academy has been emailing "AAN Professional Association Action Alerts," which ask members to contact Congress on an issue of importance to neurology. Our system, Vocus, walks AAN members through the letter-writing process, and in as few as three clicks your letter is sent via email to your representatives in Congress. Learn more about how easy it is to access Vocus.

The process may be simple, but is it worth your time to send your letter?

The answer is "yes!" But not for the reasons you might think. . . .

A Congressional Office can receive thousands of messages every day, all of which can range over hundreds of different topics. It is the job of a staffer, one who usually ranks within the lower level, to pore over every single message received, whether it is an email, a postal letter, or a fax.

The staffer's job is not to read the letter in depth, but to determine three things as quickly as possible:

  1. Is the letter from a constituent—someone who lives in the district?
  2. What issue is the constituent writing about?
  3. Is the constituent for or against the issue?

Once these questions have been answered, the information is data entered and becomes part of the "mail report." Becoming part of that report is extremely important, as every member of Congress reviews this report at the beginning of each week to determine the important issues for their constituents, as well as what the mood is regarding those issues.

Although the details of your letter may not be read as closely as you would like, be assured that when we all add our voice, we will be heard via the mail report that comes out at the beginning of each week! So the next time your receive an "AAN Professional Association Action Alert," we sincerely hope you are willing to make a little as three clicks to send a message to your elected officials.

Start advocating today: find out how easy it is to use Vocus.

Read all of Mike Amery's reports on the Capitol Hill Report page.