By Cathy Jameson
We have questions. Our Congressman should be able to us get answers. In a perfect world, all of our question asking will have paid off and the truth revealed. The truth, especially as how it relates to vaccines and autism, has been hard to get. Many of us have gone round and round locally with our doctors, special education departments and state government agencies while working tirelessly to heal our children. Yes, it’s been tiring; but, it’s time to think bigger. It’s time to get the attention of our nation’s leaders—those people who have promised to work for us.
With a few politicians at our disposal, especially those who attended the 2013 AutismOne Congressional Panel last weekend, keeping their attention is important now more than ever. Before you shy away in a corner thinking you have no experience dabbling in politics, getting the attention of our government leaders isn’t as hard as it sounds. It, just like so many things you’ve already done, is just a quick Google search away. I’ll prove it.
I am as shy as shy can be when it comes to meeting new people. New people who run for office make me even more nervous. Until last week. After listening to Rep. Posey’s (R-FL) speech in Chicago, I ditched my nerves and got straight to work as soon as I was home. Posey, who had given us in the audience a grand pep talk, also gave us three challenges--tasks I thought would be somewhat manageable even for how incredibly busy I am.
After unpacking my suitcase and catching up with my family, I began the search for my Congressman. Some might think I should already know who this person is, but taking care of my vaccine-injured son has been a full-time endeavor. Knowing who my representative is hasn’t been on my radar. But, with the renewed energy AutismOne gave, and the fact that I had accepted Rep. Posey’s challenges, I jumped on the computer and began my search.
After Googling my guy, I located my Congressman’s local office and rearranged an afternoon of errands and appointments. I made plans to drop in, introduce myself and to begin a relationship that for years before would make me shudder.
My agenda was short: meet the staffers (and the Congressman if he happened to be in this particular office), ask for their help and share my adventure in today’s post. Most of these simple steps, dictated by Rep. Bill Posey during his motivating speech at AO, were quite easy.
Rep. Posey had asked all of us to do a few things after the conference.
-First, find out who our own Representatives were.
-Second, ask him/her to co-sponsor HR1757, The Vaccine Safety Study Act.
-And third, come back to him in one year’s time having already started at least one case file or inquiry with our own Congressman.
Within the first few minutes of being in my own Congressman’s office, I checked off Posey’s first two challenges. The third one, which was asking about an inquiry, took up only a little bit of time. And, just a few minutes later, I walked away knowing how to file one. I also walked away with someone on my side.
Remember I said how easy it was for me to walk into my Congressman’s office? Well, as quickly as I was welcomed into the office, and after I shared my son Ronan’s story, I heard the all-to-similar. The staffer, who had been nodding her head while listening to the details of Ronan’s autism story, then told her own. It was her nephew’s story and how he too plummeted onto the spectrum post vaccination.
What are the odds that my Congressman has a staffer whose family member has autism? At the current rate of 1 in 50 being on the spectrum, odds are pretty high that a lot of us will run into at least one person who knows autism inside and out. For me, this staffer was that one.
She continued. Her nephew’s parents believe his issues started after he got vaccines. Turns out the family has history of negative reactions to such things as amalgams, fluoride and certain metals. Once her nephew started to receive care to reverse heavy-metal poisoning, his health began to improve. Over time the boy made leaps and bounds progress with the DAN! Doctor he saw.
It was at this point that I almost fell out of my chair. Not only was the staffer knowledgeable about autism, but she used the same vocabulary we parents have been using for years! Vaccine injury, mercury in filings, detoxification and chelation. I wasn’t just talking to just a staffer anymore. I was talking to one of us.
Returning to the To Do list I had, and making sure I had exactly the right information to be able to file an inquiry with my Congressman, I said, “I know you completely understand why getting some information about vaccine safety from my Congressman is so important.” She agreed.
Going over the directions to make my first inquiry, I jotted down the steps and thanked the staffer for her time. Right before I got up to leave, I asked, “Now, if my friend in Montana wants to make an inquiry to her Representative, is it the same process?”
“Is it just as easy?”
“Oh, yes. They’d go to their local Rep’s website obviously, but it’s the same procedure.”
“And they can ask any question they want?”
“Any question.” |
“Great! Wait, what if I have, let’s say…12 questions?”
“Ask them all. You may want to do one at a time though, but ask as many as you need answered.”
“Wonderful. Thank you so much for your help. I’ll be sure to share this with my friends.” |
I cannot stress enough how easy Rep. Posey’s three requests were.
So, what are you waiting for?!
Here are the basics of how to request a case file (and what I’ve seen called an Inquiry):
• First, find out who your Representative http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ is.
• Next, find the link on their website. Our Representatives’ websites are their last name.house.gov (example, if you are in Bill Posey’s district, you would find him at: posey.house.gov).
• When you open your Representative’s website, look for the tab that says Constituent Services.
• Click the tab and search for Casework or Help with Government Agencies.
• Click that link and follow the directions to begin the process. **Note: do not be discouraged if you do not see all Federal agencies listed on this page. Many of the Representatives’ sites I looked at only listed 5-10 federal agencies. Our Congressmen can help with concerns for all federal agencies including the ones we in our community have questions about.
• The next step is to complete and sign a Privacy Authorization Form. The link for that form is on your Congressman’s site, usually on the same page as the Casework or Help with Government Agencies page. Fill in the information requested, write your question and then submit it via fax, email or regular mail.
But what should you ask your Congressman?
You may want to start with a specific question about vaccines, vaccine safety or the vaccine-autism link. Ask why it’s been ignored for as long as it has. Ask when we’ll ever see a vax vs. unvax study. Ask why the US Vaccine Court makes it so difficult to prove our children’s obvious vaccine injuries. At this point, since I don’t think this type of letter writing campaign has been done before, the world is your oyster. Like my staffer said, ask anything!
Once you have a question formulated, write it down and then decide if you want to email, fax or walk your question into your Congressman’s office. Once received, a formal inquiry on your behalf begins.
As with anything government related, I’d suggest you give your Congressman a couple of days to a few weeks to respond. While you wait, keep in touch with him/her or their Congressional health staffer. I plan on providing local, state and national vaccine and autism news to mine to keep the topics fresh in their minds.
Why is doing this so important?
Autism is everywhere. And it pops up when we least expect it like it did for me while in my own Congressman’s office. We’ll surely all run into similar folks, so we must keep telling our stories over and over again. We have to until autism awareness becomes autism action every day.
As a group, I think we can be very specific with our inquiries (examples: Would you like to know why Dr. Boyle of the CDC wasn’t prepared and didn’t have a clue about the studies she was asked about at the 2012 Autism Hearing? Do you want to know why Poul Thorsen is still at large after lying, embezzling and fleeing the United States while his study continues to be cited as the gospel truth? Or do you want to know if it is ethical for vaccine-patent holder Dr. Paul Offit to be the nation’s go-to guy when vaccines, autism and the vaccine-autism link hit pharmaceutically-funded mainstream news sites?).
I think it’s worth asking that the autism community quickly come together on this endeavor. Some of them, like the Canary Party who helped bring the Congressmen to AutismOne, have helped keep the autism epidemic in front of the politicians’ eyes. Maybe with their help, and with other groups like SafeMinds or the Autism Action Network, we can start a bank of questions and topics that we want all of our Congressmen to answer.
Since time has never been on our side, nor has cracking the heavily-guarded secrets some of the government and their cohorts share, let’s see what we can do to rally the troops. Making individual inquiries could be an epic moment that benefits all of us. With Reps. Bill Posey and Darrell “The Busiest Man in Washington” Issa saying they are on our side, let’s do what we can now to keep them working with us.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.