I am often asked, what is the number one thing that a disability representative can do to increase their political influence on Capitol Hill?
Without a doubt, the best thing to do to increase your political influence is to develop personal relationships with your Members of Congress and other elected leaders in your community.
I realize that this may initially sound like a daunting task. You are probably asking yourself; how would I go about this even if I had the time to do it?
First and foremost, this is not as challenging as it may first appear. There is some truth to the old joke that the first rule for an elected official is to get re-elected, the second rule is to remember the first rule. Elected officials need the votes of their constituents to get in and stay in office. This means that they want to get to know their constituents, what they care about, and if there are ways to help them.
With so many others competing for your elected officials’ time, you will have to make the first move, but there are ample opportunities for this. For example, your elected official will most likely hold various town hall events. These may be virtual due to the pandemic, but they are still happening, or they may have “office hours” at various community events or open houses in their office. These are all great opportunities for you to introduce yourself and talk about issues of importance to you and your clients.
Another great way to get engaged is to get involved with your local political party or a campaign. With the midterm elections coming up, every candidate for office is looking for volunteers. This is a great way to start developing a relationship.
If you’re a member of NOSSCR, you can work with us to develop a relationship with your Member of Congress and their staff. We are happy to set up a meeting for you with your Member of Congress’ staff to talk about issues and even join you at the meeting.
As with any relationship, one brief meeting is not enough to establish a strong relationship, but it is the first step. Every relationship starts with a first step and developing one with your elected leaders is no different. As you continue to engage with your elected officials, they will start to better understand the challenges you and your clients face and how they can best assist both of you. You will also begin to establish yourself as a trusted resource. You may even find that your elected officials start reaching out to you when they have questions about Social Security disability issues.
I am sure you are thinking this sounds great, but I don’t have the time for this. I understand, that’s a reasonable gut reaction. But think about this; how much is at stake for your livelihood, profession, and your clients?
It’s worth the time.