It’s Time To Visit Your Congressman

So both the House and the Senate have failed to make any leeway restoring the cuts to military pensions. In fact, many seem to be kicking the can down the road as far as possible. They hope this problem will fade and go away. They hope that we will fade and go away.

We won’t.

Next week there is a Congressional Recess. Sounds like nothing is going on right?

You couldn’t be more wrong. Representatives and Senators will be returning home and it’s your chance to walk into their offices and tell them what you think of the recent military pension cuts.

If you’re worried that you don’t live in the same community as the representative you vote for, don’t. Go see the Congressman and the Senators that live closest to you. It’s okay.

You have a couple of choices – you can schedule a direct meeting. That’s right, you can call the office staff and let them know that next week you want to meet with Senator Mitch McConnell. Or with Congressman Paul Ryan. Or any other elected representative of your choice. It’s your right as citizen to request these meetings. If they can meet with lobbyists, they can meet with you.

If the staff puts you off and says an appointment isn’t available, then ask to meet with the Chief of Staff or the Military Legislative Aide. Those are second best choices and both of these people should have answers about the military pension cuts.

And then find out if any Townhall Meetings are planned in your neck of the woods. If they are, gather family and friends and find your way to that meeting. Make sure you get some face time by asking a question or approaching the Congressman after the Town Hall. You can also approach any press in the room and offer them a short interview. It’s allowed… you don’t have to wait for them to come to you.

Need some talking points? If you’re following the hashtag #KeepYourPromise on Twitter or the Keep Your Promise Alliance on Facebook, you’ll find a ton. But here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • We need a bipartisan solution to a bipartisan problem. They broke it together, they need to fix it together.
  • Make the cuts understandable – explain how that loss of money will personally affect your family. If you’re a civilian helping us out, please use some of our stories and then explain why it’s so important to you that veterans are treated fairly. You can tell your Congressman that our pensions help keep us firmly in the middle class and that cuts of $80,000 to $120,000 mean leaving something behind whether it’s college education for our children or a downpayment on a home.
  • Spouses can and should talk about how pensions belong to families, not to individual service members. Remind them of how hard it is to find jobs, to retain jobs, and to find employment that pays enough to even cover the cost of childcare much less put money into a savings account. Tell them that the inability to work means we haven’t paid into Social Security. We have planned on these pensions to help make up for our lack of earning potential while supporting our spouses on active duty.

After you’ve told your story, you need to directly ask your Congressman a question. This is called a direct ask and it forces an answer. You have several choices. Here are some suggestions:

  • Congressman, what specifically will you do to restore cuts to COLA for all military retirees?
  • Congressman, which legislation have you co-sponsored and why do you think that piece of legislation has a chance to pass?
  • Congressman, what will you do to bring HR 3790 (or any other bill you support) to a vote?

Make sure to remain polite throughout. It can be frustrating to hear what I call non-answers. But you want to be able to return. You may need another meeting when they decide to cut Tricare or close Commissaries. Leave on a cordial note even while expressing your anger and making your point.

After you’ve had your meeting or visited the Town Hall, please share your story. One of the best ways to share is in a Letter to the Editor of the local newspaper. They are more likely to print letters that include the names of local politicians and you will have a compelling story to share. It’s more than likely to get published.

You can write a blog, you can share on Facebook and on Twitter. You can call a local reporter and ask them to cover the story from a local angle. YOU can control an awful about the political story in your neighborhood. It’s easier than you think.

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