Testimony Countdown: Getting the Military Family Message to Congress

Kathy-testimonyHave you ever been invited to testify before Congress? It’s a rare opportunity, and no matter how many times it happens (30+ times for our Association since Operation Enduring Freedom) it really gets your adrenaline pumping. Our next opportunity is this week—March 26th.

Years of listening to military family concerns, years of becoming experts in military health care, child care, spouse employment, and our premier issue – the well-being of military families- go into crafting our statement. Since last year, we’ve been faced with the threats of sequestration and a proposed budget that asks military families to sacrifice once again. We’ve been asking Congress to remember military families, and to understand that the resources to keep those families ready must be sustained not diminished.

So where do we begin?

  1. We develop our position. We start with our blueprint – the 2014 Legislative and Policy Priorities. We add in the newest information from the budget proposal and analyze the impact it will have on military families. We spend a lot of time in discussion – with other advocates, with subject matter experts. We talk to military families – our volunteers, the ones we interact with on social media. We ask questions through surveys and through our scholarship applications.
  2. We write, rewrite and then rewrite again. All the Government Relations deputy directors – Eileen, Karen and Brooke – have been glued to their keyboards crafting their sections of the testimony for the past two weeks. We worry about writing too much or not writing enough. We need to include enough background to put the issue in context. While I have certain sections to write in my areas of expertise, it’s my job as director to compile all the pieces.
  3. We make tough editing decisions. Our initial document—all 30 pages of it—then went to our Government Relations advisory committee. They all agree it’s too, too long. But what do we leave out??? Joyce Raezer, our Executive Director, and I spent several hours one evening going over the statement line by line to make sure we captured every concept we needed to. Katie, our information manager, did a long distance final edit that (hopefully) captured every typo.
  4. We seal it with a social media kiss. On Friday morning, we declared it “done” and sent the statement on its way to the Subcommittee staff. This year, we’ve incorporated our Communications department more closely into the process. We want military families like yours to know exactly what we are fighting for, and we want to give you the opportunity to raise your voice with us.

I have one thing left to write: my 3-minute oral statement that I’ll give at the hearing. Condensing everything we’ve worked on into a few short minutes will be difficult, but I won’t be alone. Three other members of The Military Coalition will testify alongside me. Those panelists will talk about compensation, health care, and the concerns of the National Guard and Reserve. I’ll use my time to talk about why the savings we get from shopping at the commissary are vital, and how our families rely on family support programs and resources not only during deployment but to empower us during uncertain times. I’ll also reinforce the importance of support for surviving families and for the caregivers of the wounded, ill and injured.

After our statements, we’ll answer questions from the Senators who attend the hearing.

You already know what I’ll say – it’s what you told us to say. We’ve listened, and we’ll make sure that Congress hears you loud and clear on Wednesday and on the days to follow.

You can read our statement on line right after we present it. You can also watch the hearing live online and follow us on Twitter where we’ll be live tweeting throughout the day.

Tomorrow is the day. Will you tune in to see our testimony before Congress?

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director


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  1. 1
    T. Bird

    So proud of this Association. I will have to miss the live broadcast, but hope to catch a recording later. I am quite sure you have excellent information/questions for congress and have been long organized in what the important points are to focus on. So I apologize for being late in asking – Will you be asking about the current barrier to hiring mental health professionals who have (Licensed Professional Counselor) LPC licensing/credentials? It appears there are many who are well qualified – (Bachelors and Masters degrees, decades of experience with military clients,…) who cannot be hired under current DOD restrictions. I have a friend in the field who wrote a letter to her congressman about this issue and she would like me to share it with you. She is sending it to me. I hear time and again and have experienced it enough – there are not enough high quality mental health care providers who take insurance – not for the military/TRICARE and not for our civilian community either. I recently heard a parent say she called 52 TRICARE mental health providers to get care for her teen in the DC area and not one was taking new patients. I shared my personal similar experience with the Association before. Seems like opening the gates to highly qualified LPCs is one way to help alleviate the problem.

  2. 2
    T. Bird

    Dear Kathleen Moakler,

    I was able to watch your testimony today and want to thank you and the National Military Family Association for faithfully representing our interests before congress.

    I heard Mr. Davis saying yet again that there is a shortage of mental health care providers in DOD. He also said there is a shortage in America at large, so the DOD/VA have trouble hiring enough.

    I see a pressing need to open these positions to highly qualified and experienced Licensed Professional Counselors who are ready, willing and able to fill these vacancies. My friend is a mental health professional with a Masters Degree, 15 years of experience working with service members and their families, trained in trauma work through the International Association of Trauma Professionals and regularly sees military clients who tell her it has taken them several months and up to a year to get treatment for PTSD. She has exactly the skill set, heart and experience to treat troops and family members, but she cannot be hired in a position in a military treatment facility or in the Veteran’s Administration because LPCs are not considered eligible. At this point is seems grossly negligent to not hire people with these credentials, especially since there are not enough Licensed Clinical Social Workers or Psychologists (who hold licenses recognized as meeting the requirements for these positions) available/willing to meet the needs of the service.

    Thank you again for you steadfast service to military families!

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