On Wednesday, March 7th, as people with MS, we brought our concerns to our Washington elected officials during our annual National MS Society Public Policy Conference. I have been involved with lobbying in the past at both the state and national level, and I always enjoy speaking with our elected officials to explain to them what is important to us and what help we are requesting from them. Although they cannot always help us to get what we are asking for, I am encouraged by their understanding and concern with the issues we bring to them.
Although many of our national and chapter staff met longer, our MS Advocate National MS Society Public Policy Conference included Monday and Tuesday 3/5,6 with an excellent program of nationally recognized speakers explaining the issues to us with insight into how we should present the issues to our elected representatives. We were a group of about 350 “MS Activists on the Frontline” living with MS and presenting our issues to our Congressional representatives. Our group from the Albany area of the Upstate New York Chapter included myself, Randy Stein, and Emily Higgins- Advocacy & Programs Coordinator, Albany Office. One of the highlights was motivational comedian Brett Leake who inspired us with his view of life’s limitations and the humor we should all find in the everyday absurdities of life.
On Wednesday we visited our elected officials on the Hill. Our visits included Congressman Tom Reed’s office, Congressman Tom Hanna’s office, Congressman Chris Gibson’s office, Congressman Paul Tonko’s office, and Congressman Bill Owens’ office. Because Congress was in session, we met primarily with their staffs. One exception was Congressman Paul Tonko who listened to our concerns and was very receptive to our requests.
During our visits, specific issues we presented that are of concern to us:
1. Provide at least $32 billion funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) FY2013
2. Provide $5 million for the Lifespan Respite Care Program in FY2013 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill and pass H.R. 3266 to reauthorize the program.
3. Co-sponsor the MS Awareness Week Resolutions (week of March 12th) introduced by Representative Barbara Lee
4. Join the MS Caucus
~ Frank Ridzi, Albany GRC member