The Memorial Day and Fourth of July congressional recesses are quickly approaching, and Members of Congress and their staff have service members, veterans, and their families on their minds. Congressional schedulers are looking for opportunities to connect Members of Congress with veterans in their districts and states during these times. Many hospices already have a unique program at the ready that serves veterans and can be utilized to increase the visibility and knowledge of hospice to their elected officials.
The We Honor Veterans (WHV) program, supported by NHPCO and the Department of Veterans Affairs, has seen great success in fostering relationships with hospices across the country seeking to meet the unique needs of veterans in hospice care. One of the special hallmarks of the program are pinning ceremonies devoted to publicly acknowledging the military service and sacrifices made by the veteran and his/her family.
Shortly after taking office representing the 29th district of New York, Congressman Tom Reed was visited by a group of advocates from Southern Tier Hospice and Palliative Care (now CareFirst) at HAN’s Hill Day in 2011. After a goodvisit, the savvy Advocates invited Congressman Reed to a WHV ceremony at their program. Congressman Reed accepted the invitation, and during his visit, spent time speaking with the veterans and shared his own personal experiences with hospice care. The staff at Southern Tier notified the Hospice Action Network of Congressman Reed’s interest in hospice and began to cultivate a relationship with the Congressman.
Since then, Congressman Reed has become one of the leading champions of hospice care in the House of Representatives. He was the lead sponsor of the Hospice Evaluation and Legitimate Payment (HELP Hospice) Act later that year, and will again be the lead sponsor of the bill when it is reintroduced later this month.
One of the most important ways Hospice Advocates can influence hospice policy at the federal level is to become involved at the local level. Site visits, such as Congressman Reed’s visit to Southern Tier are a great way to educate Members of Congress about hospice care, see what hospice care really looks like, and to begin building relationships with your Members of Congress. Inviting your Members of Congress to your program is an excellent way to begin, or continue to build, a relationship that benefits your hospice and the hospice community as a whole. And by inviting your Members of Congress to an event for veterans, you not only honor the veterans you serve, but raise awareness for hospice care so it is available for today’s veterans and those to come. Your Senator or Representative may become the next hospice champion in Congress!
HAN has a variety of resources on our website from inviting a Member of Congress to your program to how to write a press release on your successful event! If you have any questions on how to plan a site visit or how to contact a district office, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget to let us know about your successful event!