What I found most satisfying during my recent visit to Capitol Hill was personally connecting with members of Congress and their legislative assistants. For example, I am still thrilled I was able to chat with Representative Jerry McNerney from the 11th District in California. My husband, John, is a Vietnam veteran, and so the treatment of those who have served in our military is one issue I care very deeply about. Rep. McNerney is author of the “Caring for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 2009,” which directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs “to establish in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) a committee to be known as the ‘Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury’…to assess, and carry out a continuing assessment of, the capability of the VHA to meet effectively the treatment and rehabilitation needs of veterans with traumatic brain injury.” Rep. McNerney has been a strong advocate for therapy services, and I was delighted to put occupational therapy in high definition for him through our conversation.
I also had a fantastic meeting with South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson’s legislative assistant. The senator has been very supportive of the need for therapy services, and in his office I felt like I was “preaching to the converted.” However, because his legislative assistant was a recent college graduate, I decided to describe a study one of my doctoral students had recently completed on the life circumstances that lead to poor diabetes management in college-age adults. I explained to her how the findings of this study could be used for the design of a preventive, chronic care management occupational therapy program for this population. I sensed she was really interested in what I was describing. However, it was only as we said goodbye that she revealed her boyfriend, an emerging adult, has type 1 diabetes, and the whole conversation had been deeply meaningful to her. I think we should all bear in mind that visits to the Hill can be touched by serendipity.
Thank you for continuing the focus on AOTA efforts on Capital Hill and for sharing your experiences and insights. These efforts are having a real impact in helping occupational therapy to be widely recognized in the political and policy arena.
I am looking forward to joining you on the Hill on Monday during Capital Hill Day.
Thanks for being an advocate for our profession!
Brent Braveman, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA