advocacy day 2013

i feel like i may be the last blogger left to talk about advocacy day, i’ve been reading so many wonderful posts about it (i’ll add a list of the ones i’ve seen at the end).  other than my usual excuse of just being so busy, it’s been really hard to articulate how i feel about the experience.  i just keep coming back to the same three words: it was amazing.

——

my day started hours before dawn, heading to the train station and catching the 4 am train to DC.  on the way, i had a chance to check out twitter (which i still don’t think i’ve quite gotten the hang of) and found links to a bunch of bloggers who were also going to be there.  i spent the next few hours engrossed in these women’s stories, reaffirming why this day was so important.

my train finally rolled into union station, and despite having two sets of directions and the GPS on my phone, i still managed to get myself turned around far too many times.  finally, i made it to the reception, and all my stress and fear melted away.  i can’t describe how wonderful it felt to be in a room of 115+ people who just get it.  who you can talk to without explaining terms or procedures, or qualifying the statements that i made.  if nothing else, that feeling of acceptance and understanding made the entire day worthwhile.

it was wonderful to meet my fellow NJ advocates.  there were about a dozen of us there, all at various stages in building our families.  it was wonderful to see one woman there from pennsylvania to support her daughter who was struggling with infertility.  three of our advocates had attended advocacy day before, but the rest of us were there for the first time.

the amazing NJ delegation!
the amazing NJ delegation!

——

we were in DC to advocate for two important pieces of legislation: the family act and the women veterans and other health improvements act.

the family act (s. 881 & hr.1851) is a tax credit bill aimed at helping middle class families afford IVF.  the bill is modelled after the adoption tax credit, which was thankfully made permanent in the last congress.  the family act is a 50/50 cost sharing credit, which would cover up to half the expenses for qualifying couples up to the lifetime max of around $26,000 (so $13,000).  this would be from the first penny spent, and carry over for five years.  to qualify for the credit, a couple needs a diagnosis of infertility that requires IVF, which is about 5% of infertile couples.  this includes military families, who are currently excluded from IVF coverage under TRICARE.

in addition to helping with the cost of IVF, the family act would also help with the costs for cancer patients to preserve their fertility before undergoing treatment that will most likely impact their fertility.

the second bill we were advocating for in the women veterans and other health care improvement act (s.131 & hr.958).  as i mentioned before, military families are not provided IVF coverage under TRICARE, the military benefits program.  not even if they are infertile because of injuries sustained during combat.

let me repeat that in case you missed it: if you are fighting to protect our country and your injuries leave you infertile and you need IVF, tough luck.  you can just pay for that out of pocket.

how can anyone think that this doesn’t need to be fixed?

in the past decade or so, about 2,000 service men and women have sustained injuries to their reproductive systems or spinal cord injuries that would require the use of IVF to build their families.  as senator murray said, “we need new treatments for new traumas” caused by improvised explosive devices.  you can read a great article about the bill here.

——

for our appointments with the senators’ offices, all of the NJ advocates met together, which was a great way to ease our way into the day.  we had hashed out a plan before hand, deciding who was comfortable talking about which aspects we wanted to address.  i volunteered to start us off after our introductions, explaining some of the basic concepts and statistics about infertility.  good thing i wrote those posts for niaw, i felt like i really knew my facts.  after i talked about some basic facts, including insurance coverage, another advocate spoke about the family act, and then a third about the women veteran’s and other health improvement act.

talking to a staffer from Sen. Lautenberg's office
talking to a staffer from Sen. Lautenberg’s office

our first appointment was with a legislative assistant from Senator Lautenberg’s office.  she was a wonderful first meeting, asking great questions and sounding very positive about the bills.  she even said before we left that she didn’t see any reason that the senator wouldn’t be be on board with the legislation!  next up, we met with a legislative correspondent with Senator Menendez.  it was another great meeting, and was interesting to discuss the bills with someone who i don’t think was very familiar with infertility before we got there.  again, he was positive and asked good questions (and lots of them, we met with him for a while!), but i didn’t leave the meeting feeling quite as confident that we could count on the senator’s support quite yet.  good thing we’ve already been back in touch to push for his help 🙂

i don't think he was expecting this many of us
i don’t think he was expecting this many of us

then it was time to meet with our representatives from the House.  resolve makes a point to ensure that you never attend a meeting alone, but i got a phone call that Representative Runyan’s office needed to move my appointment up.  before i knew what i was saying, i was telling the staff member from resolve that i would be ok and she didn’t need to find someone else to meet me at the new time.  me and my big mouth! in the end though, i was so proud of myself for going alone.  especially since i ended up meeting with Representative Runyan (himself!) and his chief of-staff.  while they were very polite and asked about the bills, i don’t think that we can expect him to co-sponsor them anytime soon.  i am hoping that, given Representative Runyan’s strong support of our military and veterans, we can get him to understand just how vital these bills can be to our service members.

to be honest, i was a bit disappointed leaving this meeting.  i knew not everyone would sign right on to support our legislation, but it was still…disappointing is really the best way to describe it.  but little did i know, my day wasn’t done yet!

the train!  i felt so special!
the train! i felt so special!

i met up with some of the other NJ ladies after my meeting, and they were off to talk to Representative Andrews.  and they were kind enough to invite me along!  we made it up to his office, but he wasn’t back from the floor yet.  after a short wait, his legislative assistant asked us if we would mind going to the House to meet him.  would we mind?!?! no way!  we made our way back down to the basement and hopped on the underground train and were whisked over to the Capitol building.  we were escorted to a…lounge area?…between the house floor and Representative Pelosi’s office.  Representative Andrews soon joined us, and instantly made us all feel at ease.  we knew we could expect a positive meeting since Representative Andrews had co-sponsored the previous incarnation of the family act during the 112th congress.  and we were not disappointed!  not only did Representative Andrews tell us that resolve would always have his support in Congress, he also gave us great advice on who we really needed to get support from now that the bills were in committee.  and he offered to help any of us out with our personal family building efforts if we needed someone to run interference with insurance companies.  so kind!

with Rep. Andrews
with Rep. Andrews

——

after meeting with Representative Andrews, i had to dash out to catch my train home.  at that point, i was exhausted – both physically and emotionally.  but it’s getting late now, and i have lesson plans to write, so that may have to wait for a separate post.  sorry!

——

in the meantime, please contact your senators and representatives to ask for their support (link includes letters you can use!)  oh, and take a look at what other advocates are saying about their experience at advocacy day:

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s